Christmas Devotionals: Always Expect the Unexpected

My schedule is a delicate balance.

There’s a shopping day.  A scrub the bathrooms and the floors day.  Laundry days (one doesn’t cut it!).  Ballet day and another ballet day and yet another day at the dance studio.  Volunteer day.  Eat lunch with the kids at school day. Writing day.  Bible Study prep day.  Prayer meeting day.  Homework day and library day.christmas9

It’s an intricate design that took effort and some trial and error to develop, but by October it all settled into a perfect rhythm.

Then December arrived and stomped all over my perfectly balanced schedule like a giant through a flower bed.

Suddenly, my calendar has arrows swapping events in my week, items written in ink now crossed out and rewritten on different days and at different times.

Oh yeah, can you fit in a class party?  And a holiday concert?  Could you make gifts for teachers and stop by the Christmas get-together?  Mom, what are we doing for my birthday?  Can we have an extra cantata practice?

Onto the calendar it goes.  I’ve begun color-coding the items. Red is for the really super important things that I absolutely cannot forget, but am certain I’m going to miss.  I add dark circles around those also.  And some stars and exclamation marks.  You can’t go wrong with stars.

Now my calendar has become illegible.  So, I switch to the daily agenda plus master to-do list that spans the next two weeks.

Add in the meal plan for family dinners up through Christmas and the shopping list that I had to restart the day after I just went to the grocery store, and the planning is complete.

How euphoric it would be to keep the schedule in balance at all times and for the expected activities to happen on the assigned days!

No doing laundry on shopping day.  No extra trip to the store when it is supposed to be writing day.  No third trip to the school on a day I’ve scheduled for cleaning house.

It would all be so expected.  So perfectly planned.  So in control.

That’s the problem, though, isn’t it?  I have a certain capacity for juggling and as long as I’m tossing around the same few balls, I’m a fairly competent performer.

But when God tosses an unexpected ball into my rhythm and routine, I’m liable to drop them all on the ground.

To a certain extent, I need to practice the “no” and guard the schedule.  Keep it simple.  Don’t try to do too much.  Don’t over-commit.

At other times, though, the schedule just is what it is.  The lesson isn’t about eliminating activity.  It’s about allowing God to shuffle our expectations and disrupt our plans so that we remember how much we need Him.

It’s His reminder that we can’t always package up our days with decorated wrapping paper and a shiny bow, oh so neat and perfect.  Life is messy at times.  Chaotic in some moments.  Fairly unexpected so many days.

The one constant is Him and even He has a way of surprising us.

I think somehow it’s appropriate that December is the month when my calendar is left in tatters and all my perfect plans are shattered.  It’s a reminder that God has a way of shaking us up, mystifying us, and going far beyond our imagination.

Like the fact that the Savior of us all, the long-awaited Messiah, entered this world as a baby.

In Nativity scenes, we usually see the pristine image of well-groomed stable animals, fresh hay, perfect baby wrapped in bright white cloth.  Mary is already back to her pre-pregnancy weight and looking like she didn’t just labor and give birth.

But God chose to come to this earth the messy way.  It was childbirth.  It was pain.  It was blood.  It wasn’t even in the sterile white setting of a hospital, but all smelly and oppressive like the barn it was.

A newborn, a little Child came to save the world.

The Light of the World entered in darkness, while nocturnal shepherds kept the night-watch over their sheep.

The King of kings arrived in a stable.

The Eternal God, the Word who in the beginning was “with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning”—lay in a manger with baby dimples and the red skin of a newborn (John 1:1).

Have you settled into a routine and rut with God?  Have you figured Him all out?  Have you gotten comfortable with what you can do and with what you believe He can do?  Have you scheduled Him and assigned Him portions of your life?

Don’t be too sure!

Just when we figure everything out and fit everything in, God often will interrupt and amaze, befuddle and change your direction.

As Paul writes: “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.  Glory to God in the church! Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus! Glory down all the generations! Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes” (Ephesians 3:20-21, MSG)

Originally posted on December 14, 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.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Devotions for Christmas: Joseph teaches me to pause, count to ten, pray and pray again

I’ve been hit in the face with a hockey puck.

A basketball bounced off my head a few times in elementary school and broke my glasses at least once.

A softball came hurtling at me when I was about 13 or so and slammed into my side.

Most people, you know, see balls zooming through the air straight toward their face and do smart things like step aside or jump out of the way or duck.christmas3

Not me.

Given the choice between fright or flight, I just choose freeze.

It’s pretty much a guarantee that if forced to make a decision in a moment of pressure, I’ll choose the most stupid thing you can possibly do.

Now you know not to pick me for your kickball team.

I need time, lots of time, to ponder and consider a response to any situation, question, or problem.  I can’t just hit that reply on the email message and I generally avoid the phone which requires instant feedback.  A comfortable phone conversation for me would look like this:

“Heather, what do you think about _______?”

“I don’t know.  Let me think about it and I’ll email you back later.”

That, of course, defeats the whole purpose of the initial phone call, which was to handle the problem quickly.

But I don’t do quickly.  Quickly for me results in broken glasses, a hockey puck in the face and a sore back where the softball slammed into me.

Quickly results in foolish decisions, words I wish I hadn’t said, poor judgment, and costly mistakes.

The world, though, is in a rush and I feel the pushing and the pressure like everyone else to respond, decide, make things happen, be a mover and a shaker and a go-getter!

Yet, I read this Christmas story and consider anew what God can teach me from a carpenter and a teenage girl called out by God to participate in this miracle of God-in-human-flesh.

God chose a simple hard-working man named Joseph, maybe one who knew so well not to rush the measuring, or the cutting, or smoothing over of the splintered surface.

Choose your wood wisely.  Go with the grain.  Etch out the plan before carving.

Perhaps those are the lessons Joseph knew from years as a carpenter.

In Scripture, he doesn’t talk, not once.  We never hear him fret to God about the news that his fiancee was pregnant and not by him….or ask Mary to explain herself ….or welcome shepherds and kings to the Savior’s birth…or even spill out words of wisdom to the little boy named Jesus.

He takes his time, this Joseph, doesn’t spit out words right away and apologize for them later.

He’s the strong, silent type.

And when he hears the news of Mary’s pregnancy, he doesn’t rush to accuse or punish.  Instead,

 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:19-20 NIV).

In The Women of Christmas, Liz Curtis Higgs writes:

“Joseph did not act in haste.  He thought things through.  Prayed things through.  He ‘contemplated’ (NET); he ‘pondered’ (MOUNCE).  When at last Joseph decided to sleep on it, ‘God graciously directed him what to do'” (The Women of Christmas, p. 105).

Joseph considered, contemplated, pondered.Wreath of Snow_cvr.indd

May we do the same.

And, while I fail and fail again at making quick decisions, still I balk when God asks me to wait and whine about the uncertainty of next steps and needed direction.

I hate to be pushed and pressured, and yet I push and pressure God.

Quickly, Lord, faster, faster.  Show me, move me, use me, deliver me….now, now, now!

Pause.

Count to ten.

Pray and pray again.

Ponder, consider, contemplate….choose the wood wisely, go with the grain, measure and plan before cutting and shaping.

That’s what He says to me as I tap my foot impatiently.

He is, after all, a Master Carpenter:

For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything (Hebrews 3:4).

The Nazarene carpenter named Joseph teaches me more about the Heavenly Carpenter who builds and shapes my very own life into the masterpiece of His own choosing and planning.  And it requires patience, so much patience.

I must take my time to respond to others, breathe in before answering, consider before replying.

and

I must trust the timing of my God, trust His touch, the way He sands down my roughness and slices off those unwieldy edges with patient care.

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

“Always Expect the Unexpected,” Christmas and December

Originally posted on December 14, 2011

My schedule is a delicate balance.

There’s a shopping day.  A scrub the bathrooms and the floors day.  Laundry days (one doesn’t cut it!).  Make bread day.  Ballet day.  Volunteer day.  Eat lunch with the kids at school day. Writing day.  Bible Study prep day.  Prayer meeting day.  Homework day and library day.

It’s an intricate design that took effort and some trial and error to develop, but by October it all settled into a perfect rhythm.

Then December arrived and stomped all over my perfectly balanced schedule like a giant through a flower bed.

Suddenly, my calendar has arrows swapping events in my week, items written in ink now crossed out and rewritten on different days and at different times.20931038_s

Oh yeah, can you fit in a class party?  And a holiday concert?  Could you make gifts for teachers and stop by the Christmas get-together?  Mom, what are we doing for my birthday?  Can we have an extra cantata practice?

Onto the calendar it goes.  I’ve begun color-coding the items. Red is for the really super important things that I absolutely cannot forget, but am certain I’m going to miss.  I add dark circles around those also.  And some stars and exclamation marks.  You can’t go wrong with stars.

Now my calendar has become illegible.  So, I switch to the daily agenda plus master to-do list that spans the next two weeks.

Add in the meal plan for family dinners up through Christmas and the shopping list that I had to restart the day after I just went to the grocery store and the planning is complete.

How euphoric it would be to keep the schedule in balance at all times!  For the expected activities to happen on the assigned days.

No doing laundry on shopping day.  No extra trip to the store when it is supposed to be writing day.  No third trip to the school on a day I’ve scheduled for cleaning house.

It would all be so expected.  So perfectly planned.  So in control.

That’s the problem, though, isn’t it?  I have a certain capacity for juggling and as long as I’m tossing around the same few balls, I’m a fairly competent performer.

But when God tosses an unexpected ball into my rhythm and routine, I’m liable to drop them all on the ground.

To a certain extent, I need to practice the “no” and guard the schedule.  Keep it simple.  Don’t try to do too much.  Don’t over-commit.

At other times, though, the schedule just is what it is.  The lesson isn’t about eliminating activity.  It’s about allowing God to shuffle our expectations and disrupt our plans so that we remember how much we need Him.

It’s His reminder that we can’t always package up our days with decorated wrapping paper and a shiny bow, oh so neat and perfect.  Life is messy at times.  Chaotic in some moments.  Fairly unexpected so many days.

The one constant is Him and even He has a way of surprising us. I think somehow it’s appropriate that December is the month when my calendar is left in tatters and all my perfect plans are shattered.  It’s a reminder that God has a way of shaking us up, mystifying us, and going far beyond our imagination.

Like the fact that the Savior of us all, the long-awaited Messiah, entered this world as a baby.

In Nativity scenes, we usually see the pristine image of well-groomed stable animals, fresh hay, perfect baby wrapped in bright white cloth.  Mary is already back to her pre-pregnancy weight and looking like she didn’t just labor and give birth.

But God chose to come to this earth the messy way.  It was childbirth.  It was pain.  It was blood.  It wasn’t even in the sterile white setting of a hospital, but all smelly and oppressive like the barn it was.

A newborn, a little Child came to save the world.

The Light of the World entered in darkness, while nocturnal shepherds were keeping the night-watch over their sheep.

The King of kings arrived in a stable.

The Eternal God, the Word who in the beginning was “with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning”—lay in a manger with baby dimples and the red skin of a newborn (John 1:1).

Have you settled into a routine and rut with God?  Have you figured Him all out?  Have you gotten comfortable with what you can do and with what you believe He can do?  Have you scheduled Him and assigned Him portions of your life?

Don’t be too sure!

Just when we figure everything out and fit everything in, God often will interrupt and amaze, befudddle and change your direction.

As Paul writes: “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.  Glory to God in the church! Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus! Glory down all the generations! Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes” (Ephesians 3:20-21, MSG)

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.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Christmas Devotionals: I Lay Me Down

Grumpy.

That’s how I get sometimes.

Only that night, my daughter and I had sat down on the sofa with her Awana book between us, studying her lessons and verses for the week.  After learning all of Psalm 23, all 66 books of the Bible, and a run of other long and difficult verses, she nearly bounced off the couch when she saw the first verse on the page:

Do everything without complaining or arguing (Phil. 2:14).

“Wow, Mom, that’s sooooo easy,” she announced and then poured out the verse a few times just to show off her impressive memorization skills.

So easy, she thinks.  Oh, sometime it’s the shortest, simplest lessons that I’ll be learning over and over, repeatedly day by day, one relentless crawl up the mountain after another, until I collapse in worship at Jesus’ feet in heaven.

Do everything without complaining or arguing.

No grumbling in the kitchen when you’ve called your children to dinner five times and they can hear each other, hear the television, hear the phone ring, hear their game….but at momma’s voice they go conveniently deaf.

No whining about cleaning up the trail of trash or complaining about lunch packing or wailing “woe is me” because I’m tired and bone-aching weary, falling asleep on the couch as my daughters read the bedtime story to me.

No elaborate, shoulder-heaving, dramatic sighs over sock piles and shoes strewn here and there.

Our ministries in our homes, churches, communities, and jobs, sometimes they are joy and sometimes we lose focus and feel the burden.

We see bother and mess, not beauty and grace, precious gifts from God to us.  We forget to be thankful.

And we become grumbling complainers and then staunch defenders of our “rights” and the boundaries we feel will protect those “rights.”

I get the need for boundaries, really I do.  I understand that God’s people aren’t expected to just let others walk all over us. I see how that’s not healthy for us or for them.

And yet, sometimes I feel we set “boundaries” not to help others, but to protect ourselves from the slightest hint of inconvenience, the smallest encroachment on our time or budget or activity.

Sometimes boundaries are less about helping others be healthy and more about keeping ourselves comfy, uninvolved and apathetic to the people around us.

Not always, but sometimes.

How can we, nearing the Christmas season and singing and talking and preaching often about Jesus born in a manger, still stand in our kitchens and grumble about dinner and socks and lunches and mess?

After all, God of the Universe “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Phil. 2:7 NIV).

Christmas reminds us to be self-sacrificing, to be servants, to offer ourselves with joy.

Because that’s what our Savior did for love of us, setting aside His rights, privileges, and glory, and humbly, oh so humbly, living among us and our dirt, sin and ugly pride.  Being born and then dying for us, choosing the blood and choosing the pain.

Didn’t Mary also willingly endure shame, the possibility of abandonment by Joseph—and even worse, death by a mob—the loss of her reputation, the disappointment of her parents, the discomfort of pregnancy, the uncomfortable and bumpy trek to Bethlehem, the pain of childbirth, and more…..for God and for the people her Son would save?

And Joseph willingly chose to stand up against the mockers and marry this virgin-with-child anyway, abandoning his home and occupation in Nazareth to journey far to Egypt in order to keep his family safe.

Even shepherds and wise men left their daily toil to journey to a baby.

They sacrificed plans and personal agendas, convenience and reputation, money, careers, relationships…because God asked them to abandon it all for Him and for His people.

It’s an indisputable fact of Christianity, an irrefutable part of our faith…God loves people.

And if God so loved the world this much, to give His only Son….then we should love people, too.  Enough to serve without complaining and arguing.  Enough to give to others more than is comfortable.

Enough to forget the burden and remember the joy, as Mary did in her song, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name” (Luke 46-47, 49).

“I lay me down”—that’s what Christ could have sung, and Mary, Joseph, and the worshipers traveling from afar.  That’s what we sing, “I lay me down, a living sacrifice…a pleasing sacrifice to You.”

To hear Darrell Evans lead in worship, I Lay Me Down” you can click here.

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 Rerun: Back to School Lesson #1: How to Use the Bathroom

Originally posted on September 5, 2011

On the first day of preschool for my oldest daughter, her teacher leaned in to open the car door and greeted my beaming girl, who had her hair done up sweetly and her clothes picked out special.

Other children had been lifted out of the car, screaming for mom as the teacher carried them down the hallway.

Not my daughter.  She bounced out the door and practically sprinted down to the classroom.  So much for separation anxiety.

I, on the other hand, wiped away tears.

At the end of the day, I wanted a full report on all her activities.  Instead, the teacher helped her back into the car and said, “She had a good day!”

A whole two hours of her life spent without me there even to watch.

Truly, it’s the difficult goal of parenthood—to train our children so they function independently.  Teach them what they need to know now so that they succeed tomorrow.

While God never trains us for independence, He is forever building into our lives, hearts, and minds today what we will need the next day and the day after that. 

And sometimes we miss it.

Sometimes we denounce the study of God’s Word in favor of what is “practical” and “relevant” to our needs right now.  We want to learn “how to” rather than learn who God is.  We shrug off discipleship in favor of temporary spiritual programs built around a single verse or two.

Now, personal application matters.  The holy words on these pages aren’t there for amusement, or intellectual stimulation, or comfort alone.  If we read without change, we are missing all that Scripture was intended to be for us.

But, how are we to know now what will matter in our lives tomorrow?  If we seek only that which has immediate application to our lives today, here, now, in this situation, the Bible becomes nothing more than a Band-Aid for life’s boo-boos or a pocket map for our life’s journey.

To celebrate the last day of summer vacation, I sat down with my girls today and had a heart-to-heart about the beginning of school.

I looked them in the eyes made bright by excitement about school and making new friends and opening new crayons and learning new ideas . . . and I gave them the most important instructions I could think of for the year:

  1. Do not wait to go to the bathroom until it’s an emergency.
  2. Go to the bathroom before you go to the playground for recess and before you get on the bus at the end of the day.
  3. Raise your hand and ask your teacher permission to go to the restroom.
  4. Close the door behind you.
  5. Flush when you are done.
  6. Wash your hands.

To me, these seemed like essential words of wisdom.  To them, they seemed banal and unimaginative.

Just wait until they have to go to the bathroom tomorrow . . .

God so often is giving us the training we need for the future, and we in similar fashion, roll our eyes, shrug our shoulders, and avert our gaze at anything so boring, so unnecessary, so impractical.

How could David know that days spent in the fields watching boring, stinky sheep would train him to be a warrior king?

How could Moses know that a childhood in an Egyptian palace and 40 years in the wilderness moving sheep around would prepare him to be the deliverer of the Hebrew nation from 400 years of slavery and then the leader of that nomadic people for another 40 years?

How could Joseph know how years spent managing Potiphar’s house as a slave and another season managing his fellow convicts in a prison would prepare him to save the entire Egyptian nation and the surrounding countries from a 7-year famine?

How could they know?  How do you know as you read your Bible what verse you will need to whisper in the night a year from now or the passage you’ll need to cling to even a decade later?

We don’t know.  But God does.

So, we open up His Word and we dig deep.  We search passionately—not just for the solution to our current problem or the manual for our present situation—but we search for Him, God Himself, and who He is.  We sit attentive in His classroom and become the student of God’s character through the study of His Word.

The Psalmist wrote:

I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.  I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.  Praise be to you, Lord; teach me your decrees.  With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth.  I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.  I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.  I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word (Psalm 119:10-16).

The Psalmist was a dedicated student of Scripture and he tells us how to be the same in this passage:

  • Seek God—not what He can do for you, but God Himself, with all your heart.
  • Memorize Scripture and call it to mind during moments of temptation.
  • Give God praise.
  • Ask Him to teach you.
  • Talk to others about what you’re learning from time spent in His Word.
  • Treat God’s Word like it’s a treasure chest filled to the brim with the most magnificent jewels imaginable.
  • Spend time meditating, contemplating, and praying through the Bible and what it reveals about Him.

And more than anything else, do not neglect His word.  You’re guaranteed to need it, if not today then tomorrow.

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.

Weekend Rerun: Blessings in Sticky Keys

Originally posted on June 10, 2011

“For You make him to be blessed and a blessing forever; You make him exceedingly glad with the joy of Your presence.”
Psalm 21: 6

I have a piano.
I have young children.
I’m trusting you can fill in blanks, use your imagination, put two and two together and figure out what all that means.

A few months ago, I sat down to play a song and noticed a key was sticking.  By the second page of music, the key wasn’t sticking anymore; it was downright stuck. Beautiful notes . . . beautiful notes . . . beautiful notes . . . thunk.

This has made my musical life difficult.

Then, there are the piano lessons for these young daughters of mine.  The offending key is not one of the mostly unnecessary ivories on the end of the keyboard.  Oh no; it is an oh-so-necessary note for any song not in C position.

So, I pulled out method book upon method book, recital books, beaten up and falling apart books covered in pencil marks from when I first learned to play.  My daughter played every single song in C position I owned on this overstuffed musical shelf of mine.  All this to avoid the offending key.

Finally, I broke down and called about repairs.  I held my breath waiting to hear how much this fix-it job would cost and then I heard the magic word: Free.

Free I tell you!!  The manufacturer recalled the keyboard on this piano because of sticky keys.  And so I danced around my living room and gave thanks to God for this blessing.  This tiny kiss from God and sweet reminder that He cares not just about the heavy burdens I carry, but also the daily annoyances and petty frustrations.

It’s a moment of visibility, the clear and unmistakable hand of God even when we are busy and rushed and overwhelmed.  It’s a flash of His glory amidst darkness, making us breathless with the beautiful and captivating mercy of it all.

But, then there are the not-so-visible blessings.  The ones we must squint to see or perhaps can only be seen in flashbacks.  While we’re in the pit and trapped in the mire, God’s hand is invisible, His blessings unclear. 

Yet, when God has lifted us up, washed us clean, taken our hand and led us forward on the journey, we can then throw a glance at the past and see the shadows of grace and blessing that we missed before.

Sometimes we know a blessing when we see it; sometimes we don’t.

Genesis 49 tells a story of blessing.  Aged Jacob calls his 11 sons to his side to tell them “what will happen . . . in days to come” (Genesis 49:1).  One by one, Jacob blesses each son.

Some of those words are obvious blessings.  Like for Judah: “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet” (Genesis 49:10).

And for Zebulun: “will live by the seashore and become a haven for ships; his border will extend toward Sidon (Genesis 49:13).

And for Joseph: “Your father’s blessings are greater than the blessings of the ancient mountains, than the bounty of the age-old hills. Let all these rest on the head of Joseph, on the brow of the prince among his brothers(Genesis 49:26).

Then there are other prophecies for other sons.  Commentator Bruce Waltke called these “antiblessings.”

Like for Reuben: “Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel” (Genesis 49:4).  And for Simeon and Levi: “Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel! I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel” (Genesis 49:7).

Antiblessings.  Maybe they even sound like curses from a dying father to his sons.  And yet blessings they are called.

Have you ever walked through something that seemed like a curse, only to find later it was truly a blessing?

Bruce Waltke explained:

In terms of the nation’s destiny these antiblessings are a blessing.  By demoting Reuben for his turbulence and uncontrolled sex drive, Jacob saves Israel from reckless leadership. Likewise, by cursing the cruelty of Simeon and Levi, he restricts their cruel rashness from dominating.

Beth Moore in The Patriarchs says, “We might call these blessings of restriction. . . .Both what we receive and what we don’t receive can constitute blessings for us and those around us.  God is all-wise.  He blesses us as surely by what He does not grant as what He does.

I have received these blessings that are only visible in memory.

At 13, I decided where I would go to college.  I worked.  I saved my money.  Years passed and I reluctantly applied to other schools along with this college, fully believing those extra applications were simply a waste of time and money.  I only toured my dream school.  I auditioned for the piano teacher of my choice.  I sought out a mentor in the Theory and Composition Department.  I went to the open house.

And then, I couldn’t go.  It was a resounding, clear “No” in the most nearly audible voice I have ever heard from God.

It seemed like a curse.  He didn’t give me the “desire of my heart.”  I was depressed, lost, confused, broken.  Listlessly, I started classes at the one college I simply did not want to attend.

And I grew.  I changed my major.  I met my husband.  My career path altered.

Abundant blessings grew out of the antiblessing.

Has God told you, “No?”  Has He delayed in giving you what you’ve asked for?  Have you been buried in circumstances that seem like curses?

Maybe that’s what you’re living through now or maybe it’s what you’ve experienced in the past. Either way, it may be hard to see a purpose or plan in all of this.

Allow God to peel back the layers of hurt and frustration and reveal underneath all of that the blessing that’s so hard to see.  Ask Him to open your eyes to see His grace at work even in heartache and loss.  It’s there, my friend, the blessing, though hidden perhaps, is there.  “Salvation belongs to the Lord; May Your blessing be upon Your people” (Psalm 3: 8)

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.

Whatever You Do, Part I

Don’t forget the giveaway going on to celebrate the one-year anniversary of this blog!  You can read all about it here and posting a comment anywhere on the blog this week will enter you to win!!

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I’m not a crafty person.  I’m not a Pinterest pinner, a craft project blogger, or an Etsy addict. Oh, I admire the creativity of others (okay, perhaps ENVY their artsyness), but I’ve accepted my limits and stopped trying to feel comfortable in the aisles of Michael’s and Joann Fabrics.

Yet today I sit at my table with glitter, craft foam, stamps, stencils, markers, colored paper and scissors to complete one item on my day’s to-do list: Make personal Valentine’s for my three girls.

Years ago, a man from our church told me that you can do many great things for daughters, but there are only two necessary things: Let them know they are beautiful and let them know they are loved.

I’ve thought about this often.  Perhaps he is right.

If I remove these two primary insecurities, they will be free and brave enough to pursue their talents, develop their minds, take on difficult projects and reach out to people.

At least for today, this thought has inspired me to turn my limited crafting skill into the most basic of all art projects: a handmade card.  It’s not because I think the final outcome will be displayable or frameable.  I could buy a better-looking card for a few dollars off the Wal-Mart rack.

It’s because I know that my daughters feel special when I make things for them and I want them to know they are loved.

As I sit making a mess out of glue and paper, I think about a biography I’ve been reading of E.B.White, the American essayist and author of Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web and The Trumpet of the Swan.

In the summer following college, White grabbed a friend and a car and drove completely across the United States—before highways existed to make this kind of national crisscrossing an all-American past-time.  They stopped in small towns and performed odd jobs or sold bits of White’s writing to local newspapers so they could buy food and gas.  They slept outside or in the car or wherever they could.  Arriving on the West Coast, White then hopped on a ship bound for Alaska.

Elbow deep now in glitter, I marvel that a human being would take off across the country without a plan, without connections, without a return date.

Crazy man, that E.B. White!

We’re so often people looking for purpose in life.  We want a grand vision, a neon sign.  We want impact.  We want to know the one reason we exist on this earth.

For E.B. White, this meant trekking without a plan and discovering himself while discovering America.  Even so, I’m not jealous of him for all of his wanderings and adventures.

For as much as we overlook the beauties of the everyday, I wonder if they are truly the key to God’s greatest plan for us.

Surely God receives big glory from big things.  The massive ministry, the arena packed full, the bestseller, the major miracle, the international program, the made-into-a-movie-story bring Him grand-scale recognition.

Yet I believe a daily life well-lived brings Him glory, too.  My marriage strong and lasting.  My daughters beautiful and loved, learning their Awana verses and showing kindness.  My small-town impact to the cashier at Wal-Mart.  My weekly shelving of books in the school library.  My prayer time each week for the school and its staff.

This means that instead of always ignoring today for the sake of the grand design of tomorrow, we give God glory in our jobs and our homes and relationships and churches.  We do what He has called us to do here, now, in this moment.  We do it faithfully.  We work at it with all our heart.

God had a great plan for Joseph’s life, yet it was worked out in days, months and years of serving as a slave in Potiphar’s house and then, as a prisoner himself, overseeing others locked in Egyptian jail cells.

Joseph’s ministry all that time involved washing dishes, working fields, carrying messages, figuring accounts, and managing property.  It was his integrity and faithful hard work in the everyday tasks that allowed God to use him more and more.

In Genesis 39, we are told “The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man. . . . His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands.  So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had” (Genesis 39:2-4).

Had Joseph balked at the menial tasks of slavery or begrudgingly gave second-best efforts as he served in Potiphar’s house, he might have remained a slave or a prisoner his entire life.  He would never have become second-in-command to Pharaoh, overseeing Egypt and ultimately saving the nation from devastating famine.

Egypt may not have survived as a nation without Joseph.

Joseph’s father, Jacob, and his ten brothers and their families—the entire nation of Israel—may also have starved as the famine reached their land.

At least two nations depended on Joseph’s daily faithfulness to the tasks at hand.

Paul wrote:

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).

and

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”
(1 Corinthians 10:31)

This is how we bring glory to God.  It’s in the making of a Valentine’s card and the packing of a lunch.  It’s in the shuffling of the wet laundry from washer to dryer.  It’s in the standing at the stove to prepare a meal.

It’s you at your desk.  It’s you in the classroom.  It’s you teaching Sunday School.  It’s you on your knees.  This is what brings Him glory.

You can read more devotionals on this topic here:

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, 01/21/2012—Perfect Peace

Hiding the Word:

Every week, I share a memory verse with you for the week.  We write them down on index cards or post-it notes and review them each day.  I don’t just memorize; I meditate on the verse.  I pray it through and ask God to teach me from this Scripture and how it relates to my life and to the rest of the Word of God.

Two weeks ago, I started a passage from Philippians that ultimately addresses the peace of God.

Now, here I sit, still thinking about peace.  Maybe it’s because in a scary world marred by sin, peace is hard to attain.  Certainly hard to maintain.  Every time I settle my heart and fix my eyes on Jesus, a news story upsets my stomach.  Or a phone call shakes my world a bit.

So, here I am again choosing a verse on peace and once again I am reminded that we have the power to reject and destroy this gift from God.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you (Isaiah 26:3)

God promises peace, but we must have steadfast minds—-focusing on the things of God.  We must trust in Him—controlling our stormy emotions.

This is how we prepare our hearts for peace.  This is how we guard and protect the gift of peace He gives.

Weekend Rerun:

Live Long and Forget or Prosper
Originally Published 06/13/2011

Not long ago, I wrote these words in a message to a friend, “Middle school was an absolute nightmare for me.”

Oh, it so was.  I had great friends; it wasn’t peer pressure or mean girls that made it so miserable.  Yet, those were difficult years for lots of reasons all piled together forming one mountain of middle school angst.

Most of the time, I forget those preteen emotions.  They have little presence in the workings of my everyday mind and heart.  Yet, just occasionally I am reminded of them.  Although it takes some purposeful recollecting, and although the pictures are unclear, almost as if they happened to someone else—yes, I do still remember.

Joseph knew more than most of us about enduring hard times and living through moments he’d rather forget.  Narrowly escaping being murdered by his brothers, he had instead been sold into slavery, falsely accused of rape, tossed into prison and left there—not for days or weeks, but years and years.

Time passed and Joseph was freed, even elevated to power in a whirlwind of activity.  Now second in the land, lesser only than Pharaoh, he married and had two sons.  The names he chose for them have made me pause.

Before the years of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”   Genesis 41: 50-52

Manasseh, God has made me forget.  In some ways, through the sheer distance of time, we cannot remember the details of the past clearly.  Sometimes that’s God’s grace, that our past of pain grows hazy in the light of present blessing. 

Yet, do we ever forget, truly forget, all our trouble?  Did Joseph?

Surely he was now in a foreign land, an adult and no longer a teenage braggart annoying his brothers. No more following sheep in a field; now he managed a world power.  His life seemed totally broken off from the long-ago upbringing by a doting father. The coat of many colors probably wouldn’t have fit over his frame any longer.

But did he forget?  Truly forget?

Not by the way he reacted to his brothers’ sudden appearance in Egypt, begging for food in the midst of famine.  Not as he spotted their faces in the crowd of travelers.  Not as he invited them to a personal audience.  Not as he conspired to see his younger brother and father once again.  Not as he returned their silver.  Not as he fled the room to cry in privacy after talking with them all once again.

Is it not so much that he forgot, but instead that he learned and grew, matured and transformed?  Through trouble, God had refined him.

Not Manasseh.  Not forgetting.  But Ephraim.  Being made fruitful in the land of my suffering

It seems so much less about a past wiped clean from memory and so much more about allowing God to work “for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28), even during those moments and seasons and years we would prefer to forget.

It is the treasure of God’s presence while in darkness, the discovery of fruitful grace in a barren land, the finding of fresh water for a parched soul.

So it was for Joseph’s brothers, who dug down deep into the sacks of grain they carried back from Egypt.  Suddenly their hands felt not wheat, but silver.  Secretly, Joseph had placed treasure in each bag.

Beth Moore in The Patriarchs wrote:

“In the midst of His unfolding plan, He’d buried treasures for them to unearth at times they least expected.  Do you feel in deep peril?  At great risk?  Your God has given you treasure.  Search for it.” 

We can stand at life’s blackboard and erase and erase and erase in attempts to forget.  Oh, could we just forget how we felt in that moment, how we went through that trial, how we hurt, how we cried, how we were afraid, how we were broken.

But we would miss the treasure hidden there.

When you find yourself in famine, dig deep for the treasure of God.  Perhaps God in His grace will cover over pain with forgetfulness, replacing memories of hurt with the blessing of intimacy in His presence. Yet, even more precious than forgetting is allowing Him to make you fruitful in the land of your suffering. 

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

Women Warriors, Part II

When I was about ten or 11, my mom marched me past the shelves of Sweet Valley Twins books in the teen section of the library and led me to the literary classics section with Shakespeare and Tolstoy and Jane Austen.  She waved her hands over the greats and said, “These.  You can read these.”  And I did.  I devoured them. I fell in love with them.  I studied them in college. I taught them to high schoolers.  To this day if you say Macbeth to me I’ll light up like a teenage girl in love and 15 minutes later you’ll emerge from a lecture on soliloquies.

Later, when I was 12 or 13, we visited my great-uncle Henry’s farm, something we did only infrequently.  He walked us around to see the cows in the fields and we took a tour of the old farm house with Aunt Mary and creaked along the floor boards from room to room.

Aunt Mary discovered that day that I was a bookworm.  So, in her enthusiasm to share her own love of reading with me, she handed me a pile of books that she had finished and was eager to pass along to someone else.

I thought I had received a great treasure that day!

And then I opened one book and learned what a Harlequin romance novel was.  She probably didn’t even realize how young I was and how those books weren’t really a good fit for me.

To this day, I don’t read romance novels.  Not the ones you can buy from the racks at the grocery story.  Not the Christian ones where the girl loves God and falls in love with a guy that loves God.  Not any.

Sure I have opinions on the matter.  I have principles guiding my decision that God has laid on my heart, all of the whys and wherefores that make that particular genre off-limits for me.

But, do I think the eleventh commandment is Thou Shalt Not Read Romance Novels?

Nope.

Do I think you are doomed for all time if you like a good clean Christian romance?

No way.

Maybe God has told you that other things are off-limits.  Something you eat, watch, read, or do that isn’t clearly wrong or covered under a Biblical commandment, but that God has personally convicted you about.

God has given us so much freedom and yet that doesn’t mean anything goes.  Paul wrote, “’I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive” (1 Corinthians 10:23).

This principle covers more than just what shows we watch on TV or what books line our bookshelves at home.  Some of us God has called to be stay-at-home moms and some to work outside the home. Some to have large families.  Some to be one-and-done. Some to adopt.  Some to home school.  Some to choose public schools.

What happens when I impose on you the calling God has given me?  Then we have explosive battles of criticism and condemnation.  We have legalism where we add mandates to Scripture and make everyone else obey the instructions God personally designed for us.

Oswald Chambers wrote: “At first, Jesus Christ through His Spirit has to restrain you from doing a great many things that may be perfectly right for everyone else but not right for you.  Yet, see that you don’t use your restrictions to criticize someone else.”

How then do we navigate these explosive relationships where even the most innocent remark or most God-directed decision becomes the atomic bomb in the next World War Women?

Allow for the Calling of Others

In Part One, I reminded you to Do What You Are Called to Do.

But, there’s another side to the story.  We also need to let others do what they are called to do.

What if we allowed for differences, not just in opinion, but in calling?  Not differences in doctrinal truth or the very clear mandates in Scripture, but differences in style, taste, gifting, personality, ability and weaknesses.

In Genesis 26:2, God told Isaac, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live.”

Decades later, God said to Jacob, “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there” (Genesis 46:3).

Don’t go to Egypt.  Do go to Egypt.

Does it seem like God can’t make up His mind?

But consider that Isaac and Jacob were different people, in different circumstances at different times.  God’s calling for each of them was uniquely appropriate.

What if Jacob had never traveled to Egypt because he felt that God’s command to Isaac must carry over to him, as well?  He would never have seen his long-lost son, Joseph, again.  No reconciliation.  No 400 years of the Israelites in Egypt.  No slavery—yes—-but also no deliverance.  It’s highly possible that Jacob and his remaining sons would have died off in obscurity as the result of famine.

Paul wrote, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).  Peaceful relationships in this world aren’t always possible and that’s the ugly truth of it all.

But, we need to do everything we can to cultivate peace even in disputed territories where landmines of personal opinion dot the fields.  Sometimes that means we stay-at-home moms need to go out of our way to encourage the working moms we know, to pray for them, to help them out if they need it and not to exclude them from our activities and friendships.

Sometimes that means letting petty jealousies and misinterpreted comments and too-sensitive feelings fall to the ground and instead choose—sometimes it’s a difficult choice—-but choose not to be offended.  Choose to put on thick skin.  Choose to let comments pass by unanswered.

Sometimes we need to keep some opinions to ourselves.  We must put down the protest signs and banners about issues that God doesn’t clearly address in Scripture.

If God has told you to go to Egypt, then go.  Pack up your bags and take the first plane out of here because you need to live in obedience to God.  But don’t condemn those who are boarding a different plane also in obedience to Him.

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.