May we learn to linger

I’m tempted to rush.

On a rare day when I have this time, the temptation is there to fill it right up with more activity, more going and more doing.

Most days, I don’t have this luxury, of course.  It’s the mad morning scramble of toothbrushes, hair brushes, ribbons, bows, socks, shoes, lunches and backpacks to send children out to the bus stop.

Then, zoom into the day with the preschooler and the errands or meetings or Bible studies or appointments or whatever busyness has etched itself onto the schedule.

But this day.  This one day.

After I watch my girls step onto that school bus, I return to my home and breathe in and out this uncertain freedom.  I don’t have to run out the door.  I don’t have to meet an external agenda or deadline right away.

So what to do?

Rush through my home, stuffing laundry into the washing machine and another load in the dryer?  Frantically move cereal bowls from sink to dishwasher and then grab the broom (maybe the mop if I’m inspired).  Respond to messages.  Catch up on the to-do list.  Fill out the forms.

So it goes, me filling up this one little space of time with too much, cramming in activity and sitting on the lid in hopes it will fit.

My tea, poured hot this morning turns cold.

My morning devotions, rushed through just to be done, leave me unfilled, uninspired, unopened to what God wants to say.

Too busy…too busy…just always too busy.

But today I consider Joshua.

Moses met with God face-to-face in a tent.  A pillar of cloud covered the entrance while the Israelites looked on from the flaps of their own tent dwellings, bowing in worship in the doorways.

When Moses finished talking with God, he returned to the camp to share the message with others.

Not Joshua, though.

“his assistant, the young man Joshua son of Nun, would not leave the inside of the tent” (Exodus 33:11 HCSB).

He wouldn’t budge from the glory and the presence, lingering there stubbornly while others moved along.

What if we chose to linger?

Chose to be Joshua refusing to leave the tent as long as God’s glory electrified the air….chose for this one day to be Mary at the feet of Jesus rather than Martha slamming pots in the kitchen?

Because serving perpetually means serving empty and that means dying of spiritual starvation and dehydration.

We need the Mary moments so we can re-enter the kitchen as Martha and care for others cheerfully and ably until we have that opportunity once again to lay down the dish towel and sit at Jesus’ feet.

It’s not practical, of course.

That crowd of more than 5000 who sat on the hillside listening to Jesus hour upon hour should have been watching the clock.  They should have known what time it was and how long they had to travel back for food.  They should have abandoned the sermon and packed up their blankets and lawn chairs at a reasonable time so they could eat dinner at a reasonable hour.

But Jesus rewarded their time in His presence.

Had they left early, they would have missed the miracle.

In order to witness God’s glory, they had to wait, they had to sit patiently and linger there until they received.

In Living Beyond Yourself , Beth Moore writes:

“He placed them in a posture to rest in His provision.  He commanded them to “sit down” and fed only those who were “seated” (vv. 10-11) . . .”Are you ‘sitting down’ in a posture of trust and sitting quietly to receive it?  If so, prepare the baskets!”

For me, it’s just this one day to breathe before a new wave of stress and busyness crashes down again.livingbeyond

For you, it may be a morning, a day….even a season of sitting and waiting on that hillside so you can see His glory, or a season at Jesus’ feet instead of in the kitchen, or a season of lingering in the tent.

Whatever the length of the wait and the stillness, it’s a discipline to rest rather than rush.

When we remain there, though, insistent on lingering where His presence is, we see His glory displayed and He fills us up with the sustenance of His presence and His Word.

Originally published 11/2014

Finding the courage for change

joshua 1-9

My daughter wove through the line of families walking into the middle school building.  She left me behind so she could hurry ahead to join her friends.

By the time I made it through the front doors, she’d already flitted along into the auditorium and found a seat way in the front for the Middle School Orientation.

I sat in the back.

Several people asked me that night whether I was okay.  I think everyone is waiting for me to have an emotional breakdown about my oldest daughter leaving the elementary years behind.

I just try not to think about it, that’s all.

Yup, I’m totally fine!

But of course, when you’re sitting in the middle school auditorium, listening to the middle school principal and teachers, and looking at slides about the middle school schedule, curriculum and after school activities, you do actually have to face facts.

Middle school is coming my way.

Obviously, my child isn’t too concerned.  She wasn’t frightened or lost, nervous, insecure, out of place or afraid.

And I was all of those things in middle school.  Those were nightmare years for me of insecurity and feeling lost.

I’ve taught middle schoolers before and they seemed like a whole lot of drama tossed in with a little bit of narcissism and a heaping dose of silly (topped off with lots of smelliness).

But here we are at middle school and my daughter seems excited, happy to be with her friends, and ready for the new.

So, maybe it’s my daughter that’s different…or maybe middle school has grown a lot friendlier and gentler over the years….either way, as I watch her that night, I feel reassured about her.

I’m still a bit worried about me, though.

The truth is this whole middle school thing reeks of change, and I’m tempted to grab the nearest clothespin and run for the door.

My kids have been at a school we love and had teachers we know and adore for five years.

When I walk into the office, I  know them and they know me.

I know the behavior systems and the reading logs.  I know the homework procedures and the cafeteria lines.

I know the books in the library and the special programs and the general schedule for the school year.

I know the bus route and the bell schedule.

And, I’m comfortable here and quite happy in that comfort.

Who wants a new office with new people, new teachers, new kids, new after school programs, a new schedule (that is WAY too early in the morning)?

She has to have gym clothes and lockers.  She has to take electives.  She has to function on an entirely different schedule in an entirely different place than her sisters who are still at the old school doing the old things.

I feel the change pulling at my muscles, stretching them.  They are taut, tight, stiff and reluctant.

I am afraid.

I am resistant.

I don’t want to change.

In Girl Meets Change, Kristen Strong writes:

We all have the opportunity to turn our tight places into prayer spaces. When change shoves us to our knees in dark places, we are in the perfect posture for lifting up our souls to heaven.

Instead of shutting my eyes tight and hoping change just leaves me alone, I’m invited to transform this into a prayer space.

I’m invited to bring the unknown to Jesus, all that uncertainty, all that fear.  I’m invited to trust that He already knows, He’s already there, and He’s with us all the way.

That’s what He promised Joshua, Moses’ protege, who spent years tagging along after Moses and now stepped into those massive shoes of leadership.

Moses was the only leader the people had ever known.

Now Joshua was in charge.

And Joshua wasn’t going to continue in the same tried-and-true way.  He stood on the threshold of the Promised Land, where he’d teach a wandering people how to establish a nation.

God told Joshua

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

So, I begin here with this prayer space.  I print out the middle school teacher roster and pray through the names.

I pray for my daughter.

I pray for the change.

I pray for the change in me, for the courage and strength I need.

Because even though I’ve never been there and don’t know what it’ll be like, God has and God does, and He will help us with what’s ahead.

prayerchange

 

Muffin Mission: Complete

Today, we have transformed our kitchen table into a muffin station: Blueberry muffins, pumpkin muffins, cinnamon streusel muffins, and triple chocolate chunk muffins.

Our teachers and school staff head back to school this week in order to prepare for the start of a new school year, so we decided to bless them with a little muffin treat.

The thing is: my kids love muffins.

Love them.

But they each only want to eat their own personal favorite flavor.

So, we are making about 24 muffins of each variety, and then each kid needs to sample at least one, maybe two….four?…to make sure they are teacher worthy.

Mom needs a taste, too, of course.

As my five-year-old says, “Muffins are too much delicious and we want to keep eating them and eating them before we run out.”

Then we will package those we haven’t eaten up and take them into the school office for teachers and staff to munch on while they clean classrooms, move desks, prep paperwork, put up bulletin boards and oh so much more.

We are doing this because we love muffins.hosea6

Well, more importantly, we love our teachers.

And love takes effort.  Loving someone means sacrificing for them, maybe some time, money, effort, or muffin batter.

Somehow, I get this when it comes to people.   Being a wife, being a mom, being a friend, being in ministry means giving to others.

But I read this today:

So be very careful to love the Lord your God (Joshua 23:11 NIV).

Joshua, the well-loved leader of Israel, had long since brought God’s people into the Promised Land.  Now he was old, preparing to die, and he gave a farewell address.

He reminded them of God’s provision and promises and the consequences for disobedience.

That’s where this one sentence is tucked in, just a small thought in a grand speech.

Be careful to the love the Lord.

I feel that nudging of the Holy Spirit, that gentle pressure as He treads on the tender places of my heart.

Am I careful…attentive…thoughtful… purposeful in the way I love Him?

Or can I sing about loving Him or talk about loving Him and keep it all so simple and without effort?

Maybe sometimes we all treat loving God as our prerogative.   How much we choose to give is up to us.  Anything we give should make God happy.  He should be content to fit snugly into our agendas, schedules, budgets, and thoughts.

What, after all, should carefully loving God look like?

It means tending that relationship.  Choosing Him over all else.  Giving up this and that so He comes first.

Loving God well means loving God wholeheartedly, not giving Him halfhearted praise and emotionless obedience.

It means speaking His love language and and worshiping Him the way He wants to be worshiped, rather than in whatever way feels comfortable and non-embarrassing to me.

It means desiring with desperate and passionate longing to know Him, really know Him, and to pour our lives into that one grand effort to be with Jesus.

Like Hosea wrote:

“Oh that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him.  He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring (Hosea 6:3 ESV).

What hope!  Just as assuredly as the sun will rise with each new day and that April showers will bring those May flowers, so we can trust that God will answer us when we call.

When we press on to know Him, He will meet us in that place.  He will make Himself known.

As Chris Tiegreen says:

Press on in whatever way you can think of, knowing that God longs to share who He is. When your heart is pressing in to Him, His response will be as certain as the dawn.

May we start this week….may we start even today, right this moment:  to be very careful to love Him.

May we learn to love God actively and wholeheartedly instead of passively and complacently.

May we press in to know Him in any way we can, in every way we can.

Then, may we look forward with expectant hope and the confident assurance that He will respond to us.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I ‘Learn to Say, ‘No?’

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

The Discipline of Resting Not Rushing

I’m tempted to rush.

This one day I have this time and the temptation is there to fill it right up with more activity, more going and more doing.

Most days, I don’t have this luxury, of course.  It’s the mad morning scramble of toothbrushes, hair brushes, ribbons, bows, socks, shoes, lunches and backpacks to send two older girls out to the bus stop.

Then, buckle a preschooler and a newborn into the minivan for the drive to school and errands or meetings or Bible studies or appointments or whatever busyness has etched itself onto the day.

But this day.  This one day.psalm27

After I watch my oldest girls step onto that school bus, I return to my home and breathe in and out this uncertain freedom.  I don’t have to drive to the preschool.  I don’t have to meet an external agenda or deadline until the afternoon.

So what to do?

Rush through my home, stuffing laundry into the washing machine and another load in the dryer?  Frantically move cereal bowls from sink to dishwasher and then grab the broom (maybe the mop if I’m inspired).  Respond to messages.  Catch up on the to-do list.  Fill out the forms.

So it goes, me filling up this one little space of time with too much, cramming in activity and sitting on the lid in hopes it will fit.

My tea, poured hot this morning turns cold.

My morning devotions, rushed through just to be done, leave me unfilled, uninspired, unopened to what God wants to say.

Too busy…too busy…just always too busy.

But today  I consider Joshua.

Moses met with God face-to-face in a tent.  A pillar of cloud covered the entrance while the Israelites looked on from the flaps of their own tent dwellings, bowing in worship in the doorways.

When Moses finished talking with God, he returned to the camp to share the message with others.

Not Joshua, though.

“his assistant, the young man Joshua son of Nun, would not leave the inside of the tent” (Exodus 33:11 HCSB).

He wouldn’t budge from the glory and the presence, lingering there stubbornly while others moved along.

What if I chose to linger here….chose to be Joshua refusing to leave the tent as long as God’s glory electrified the air….chose for this one day to be Mary at the feet of Jesus rather than Martha slamming pots in the kitchen?

Because serving perpetually means serving empty and that means dying of spiritual starvation and dehydration.

We need the Mary moments so we can re-enter the kitchen as Martha and care for others cheerfully and ably until we have that opportunity once again to lay down the dish towel and sit at Jesus’ feet.

It’s not practical, of course.

That crowd of more than 5000 who sat on the hillside listening to Jesus hour upon hour should have been watching the clock.  They should have known what time it was and how long they had to travel back for food.  They should have abandoned the sermon and packed up their blankets and lawn chairs at a reasonable time so they could eat dinner at a reasonable hour.

Yet, Jesus rewarded their time in His presence.

Had they left early, they would have missed the miracle.

In order to witness God’s glory, they had to wait, they had to sit patiently and linger there until they received.

In Living Beyond Yourself, Beth Moore writes:

“He placed them in a posture to rest in His provision.  He commanded them to “sit down” and fed only those who were “seated” (vv. 10-11) . . .”Are you ‘sitting down’ in a posture of trust and sitting quietly to receive it?  If so, prepare the baskets!”

For me, it’s just this one day a week to take my morning slow before the afternoon and evening wave of stress and busyness crashes down again.livingbeyond

For you, it may be a morning, a day….even a season of sitting and waiting on that hillside so you can see His glory, or a season at Jesus’ feet instead of in the kitchen, or a season of lingering in the tent.

Whatever the length of the wait and the stillness, it’s a discipline to rest rather than rush.

When we remain there, though, insistent on lingering where His presence is, we see His glory displayed and He fills us up with the sustenance of His presence and His Word.

But only when we wait until He says it’s time to move on.

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

Cue the Jeopardy Music

She announced that her stomach hurt and she was too sick to go to school about ten minutes before the bus pulled up in front of my house.

“Announced” perhaps isn’t the right word.  It was more like “groaned” or “moaned” or “whispered in agony.”  Something like that.  And there were tears and clutching the hands to the stomach and doubling over in pain.  That kind of thing.

I’ve always been paralyzed by decisions under pressure.  I’d be an utter failure on Jeopardy (besides not knowing anything about pop culture or sports) because whatever I do know flies out of my head stopwatchthe moment someone clicks on a timer.

In college, I studied all week before the test, but tucked my books and notes away the night before the exam.  The stress of cramming made my brain shut down.

And procrastinating makes me hyperventilate.

When you have a problem like mine, the utter inability to think under pressure, sometimes you say silly things just because you need to say something.  Sports are dangerous for me, too, because I can’t be trusted to react well when a hard object comes hurling at my face.

So, if my daughter had decided she was sick an hour before the bus arrival, I might have been wise and calm, but with ten minutes to go, I was a frantic mess of paralyzed mom-ness.

I grabbed the thermometer to gather objective evidence.  When I announced that no fever meant going to school, though, she collapsed onto the sofa underneath her blanket with a bowl held up under her nose.

What if I let her stay home and she wasn’t really sick and she used up an absence for no reason at all and then she thought it was okay to skip school any day her stomach felt a little bit ache-y?

She was going to school.

But what if I sent her to school and she really was feeling bad so she threw up in the middle of the classroom and someone had to clean it all up and she infected other students and it was all super embarrassing?

She was not going to school.

Finally, I made my decision:  I would keep her home for two hours and if she wasn’t really sick, she’d go to school.

Suddenly I felt so much better because I had two hours to consider the matter, weigh the evidence, and make another choice.  And at just after 11:00, I walked her into the school building with her backpack on and sent her off to her class.

Maybe it’s the fear of making a wrong decision that troubles me so.  Or perhaps it’s that I like to weigh the evidence, all the evidence and how do you know when you have all the facts?

It may be paralyzing at times, but perhaps there’s at least one good thing about this need to pause and think after all.

I wonder, as I read the book of Joshua, what would have happened if the nation of Israel had stopped for a single moment to consider the choice set before them, instead of rushing in all bold and blustery to a decision while ultimately remaining deep-down uncommitted.

Joshua said:

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).

Absolutely we want to serve the Lord!  We know what He’s done for us and we’re going to serve Him!

They didn’t consider, though, that the commitments we make in life aren’t just one time choices.  They are the guides we use for the daily choices and the moment-by-moment decisions that require self-denial and self-discipline.

The choice to spend time with God despite busyness and distractions–that’s daily.

The choice to deny self and serve—that’s every day any time of the day.

The choice to submit to God and the leading of the Holy Spirit—that’s every second.

In the end, for all their shouting about how they would serve the Lord, the Israelites chose day after day to disobey Him and to pursue their own agendas, to worship false gods and break all the commandments He had given for their protection and purity.

Today, let us pause, taking the time for just this moment, first to listen.

What, God, are you asking of me?

And then before we rush into commitments and assurances, we consider the cost, we determine in our hearts, and then—only then—we make the choice.

But it doesn’t stop there.  The day after that and the next day and the next, we choose Him, choose to follow, choose to obey.  Sometimes we mess up, but we thank Him for fresh mercies and try again with choice after choice, showing that yes, we will serve the Lord.

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

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

It’s Not Business; It’s Personal

The letter arrived in a crisp white envelope with a typed address….for my six-year-old.

Obviously, this wasn’t a card or drawing from a school friend or a birthday invitation from a classmate.  This looked like official business.

I opened the envelope and was amused to find them asking her to contribute to their nonprofit organization.  If she made a generous donation of $50 to their worthy cause, they would send her a beautiful and stylish tote bag.

I’m sure she’s just dying to empty her piggy bank of pennies and send them right along.

Clearly, they didn’t know this name in their database belongs to a six-year-old first grader who would prefer to spend her money on fun-shaped erasers and colorful pens at the school book fair next week.

That’s because it wasn’t a personal message.

It was business, just business.  She was a name on a computer screen that ended up as a name on a form letter.

In a world of catalogs and bills, form letters and political mailers, opening the mail box and finding a handwritten note from a friend surprises us.  It’s the rare joy of thoughtfulness and kindness in a mostly business society.

So sometimes we think that our God is a mostly business God, too: That somehow He just pushes His agenda on us without concern for our feelings or best interest.

Or perhaps we think that He’s juggling so many crises–wars and famines and terror—and how could He have time for anything else?  And the people, so many people, how could He possibly care about one little insignificant individual like me?

Maybe we feel like little more than a typewritten name on a divine form letter.

Yet in a mostly business world, we have an amazingly personal God.

He calls us by name and knows our innermost thoughts, saw us in our mother’s wombs and designed a plan for us from the beginning. 

He was not a Savior from afar, but God who walked among us, suffered among us, and knows what it is like to live out life in this world.

This was His reminder to the nation of Israel as they stood on the edges of the Promised Land, a people wandering long and whose last memory of a “home” was a land of slavery.

God said:

So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you….Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deut. 31:6, 8).

He didn’t set them on a path and then abandon them to the journey.  God was personally with them, personally going before them, personally concerned about them.

And for Joshua, the newly appointed leader of this wayward and difficult people, God’s message was specific and consistent.

It began with God’s instruction to Moses on how to hand over of the staff to his protege, not with lectures and correction, but with encouragement:

Instead, your assistant, Joshua son of Nun, will lead the people into the land. Encourage him, for he will lead Israel as they take possession of it (Deut. 1:38).  Instead, commission josh1,9Joshua and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead the people across the Jordan. He will give them all the land you now see before you as their possession (Deut. 3:28).

God repeats the message again and again, relentlessly, not just through Moses, but with His very own words—“be strong and courageous…Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

God didn’t have to say that.  He could have issued commands from afar, distant and cold.

But God knew Joshua personally. He knew exactly how it felt to step into Moses’s gigantic sandals.  He knew just how high those walls of Jericho were and how much courage it would take to command the people.

God knew the one message that Joshua personally needed to hear, not once, but repeatedly: Do not be afraid.

This is the blessing for us, incredible as it is, as hard as it is at times to feel with our emotions:

God knows us personally, too.  He knows exactly what obstacles we’ll encounter and the precise insecurities and fears that will beat down our faith.  He knows the days we walk weary and the nights we flop into bed discouraged.  He knows the immensity of the need and how insufficient our provisions appear.

And He “will personally go ahead for you.  He will neither fail nor abandon you….” so do not be afraid.

That’s not a business slogan.  That’s a personal guarantee.
 

Been There, Done That, Wearing the T-Shirt

Now this I know: The LORD gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand.
Psalm 20:6

One of my indoor cats decided this week to go for an extended stay outside.  He forgot to let me know where he was going and when he would be home.

So inconsiderate of him.

We didn’t see him slip out the back door as we took out the recycling and watered our vegetable garden.  It wasn’t until I returned home from running errands all morning that I realized something was wrong.  Only one cat (my massive black behemoth of a feline) greeted me at the door to see if I had brought home cat food.

After searching the house in all of his favorite hiding spots, I realized the truth—he wasn’t inside, so he must be out.  That’s when I began calling his name and searching along the trees and brush on the edges of our yard.  I peered underneath our deck and rattled some cat food in a dish to get his attention.

My kids and I prayed for him to come home.  Well, most of my kids prayed.  My youngest daughter had been worried about him all day and kept peeking under the beds or tables asking, “Oliver?”  My middle girl declared, “He’s my buddy and I’d be sad if he didn’t come home.”  They prayed.

My older daughter, however, said she thought we should get rid of his cat dish if he was lost forever and, by the way, if we just got rid of our other cat, perhaps we could get a puppy instead.

She’s not a cat person.

At church, I asked my Bible study girls to pray and then my daughters and I prayed again as we drove home.  Once we pulled into my driveway, I drove extra slowly and asked the girls to keep a lookout for him.

That’s when my two-year-old screamed, “There he is.  I find him!!”

I didn’t believe her at first.  She’s the tiniest one of the bunch.  How could she spot him so quickly?  Still, I asked, “Where do you see him?”

“At the house.  There!”

Sure enough, my striking orange cat was sitting up tall on the deck of our house just waiting for us to come home and let him inside.  He was nonchalant about the whole thing, as if his return was never in question.

During our persistent prayers that evening, we didn’t know that God had already delivered the answer we had been seeking.  We were praying for my cat’s return.  He was already hanging out on the deck by our back door.

It was the same for the Israelites, poised on the outskirts of the Promised Land.  Their first major obstacle to possessing the territory they had pursued for 40 years now loomed large in front of them, daunting, impenetrable, impossible.  A walled city.  Jericho.

We’re told, “now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites.  No one went out and no one came in” (Joshua 6:1).

Yet, it was just at this moment, in the shadow of those thick walls with closed gates, that the “Lord said to Joshua, ‘See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands'” (Joshua 6:2, NIV).

The Message says it this way: “Look sharp now. I’ve already given Jericho to you.” (Joshua 6:2 MSG).

It’s the tiniest matter of grammar, the simple fact of the past tense here that draws my attention.  God didn’t say, “I’m going to give Jericho to you” or “In about a week, the walls will fall down and you’ll win the day.”

No, God already declared the victory.  “I have delivered Jericho.”  “I’ve already given Jericho to you.”

It’s a done deal, a finished conquest, a promise, an assertion of fact that the Israelites couldn’t yet see.

They saw the towering walls still standing and blocking their entrance into the Promised Land.
God saw the walls crumbled into pieces and scattered on the ground at the feet of His people.

Then, after declaring that the victory was already theirs, God gave them instructions on how to achieve it.  He described the crazy march, the circumventing of the city for seven days.  He instructed them to shout after that final foolish-looking journey around Jericho.  He declared that the walls would collapse and the Hebrew army would march into the city.

There are some promises we’re waiting to see fulfilled, some prayer requests we’ve brought to God’s feet year after year, and it’s hard to maintain what seems like impossible hope in the light of circumstantial evidence and walls that never seem to fall.

Yet, perhaps God has already declared your victory.  He sees what you do not: The battle finished and the walls toppled over like a block tower sabotaged by a toddler.

This is why we do not lose hope, because God will be faithful to deliver the victories He has promised us.  He has declared it.  The battle is already won.

So we obey the instructions He gives, no matter how foolish-looking, crazy-sounding or wildly imaginative they may seem.  March and shout as He instructs and watch the tiniest gravel start the avalanche that brings down the impenetrable fortress of your circumstances.

If you’re just standing at the walls looking up, don’t lose hope in God’s ability to grant you victory.  Leave the battle in His hands and wait for the rocks to come tumbling down.

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.

Altars of Uncut Stones or the Beauty of Simple Obedience

I picked up my daughter’s yellow spring jacket and felt weight, heaviness where it shouldn’t be.  Clearly she had stuffed her pocket at the park with her latest treasure.

Curious about her new discovery, I slipped my hand into her pocket and pulled out . . . a rock.  Two rocks actually, one for each pocket.

They weren’t gems, either.  No sparkles or beauty.  No monetary value.

They were plain ordinary gravel, no different than the layer of rock on my driveway.  In fact, the one crumbled into my fingers with the slightest pressure.

I sighed.  She had been toting home rocks for about two years now.  Everywhere we went, some pebbles, gravel, or smooth stones caught her attention and ended up in her pockets.

She has even tried to remove stones from the paths at Colonial Williamsburg and the zoo and once tried to carry a cement block away from the local museum where its grand function was to hold open the door.

I put my foot down about those.

But if it fits neatly into the pocket of her jacket, she’s likely to tuck it away where I can’t see and add it to her “rock collection.”  Perhaps she’ll even give it a name, which usually ends up being something like “Rocky” or another equally creative moniker.

I made the mistake of tossing “Rocky the First” back into our garden when I discovered it on her dresser.  She cried.  She searched the back garden for a glimpse of him and, finding him, carried Rocky right back inside.

To me, it was an ugly rock.  To her it was a treasured part of her collection, more like a pet than a simple object.

She’s not the only one who finds beauty in simple stones.  God loves them, too.

As they crossed over the Jordan River, the Israelites obeyed God’s instruction, picking up 12 stones from the river bed and lugging them up the embankment onto dry land.  God told them to use those stones to build an altar.

More specifically,

“an altar of stones.  You shall wield no iron tool on them; you shall build an altar to the Lord your God of uncut stones. And you shall offer burnt offerings on it to the Lord your God, and you shall sacrifice peace offerings and shall eat there, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God” (Deut. 27:5-7 ESV)

Their peace offerings and sacrifices, their worship and rejoicing before the God who had carried them into the Promised Land, may have seemed more fit for an altar of finest gems.

Perhaps their greatest artisans could have finely cut diamonds, emeralds and rubies into an altar fit for worship of the Most High God.

Or, if God insisted on them using river rocks, at the very least they could have chiseled and carved until the altar looked like a marble statue, perhaps of angels or a depiction of the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant, or of Joshua leading the people.

Yet, God was clear.  Stones, simple stones, uncut by any human tool, formed the altar fit for the offerings of His people.

Why did God even care about a detail so small?  According to Him, “If you make an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones, for if you wield your tool on it you profane it” (Exodus 20:25).

To God, human construction on the altar stones made them unholy and profane.

That’s because God knew the danger implicit in cut stones and man-made bricks.  The moment we begin to adorn altars with human effort is the moment we shift the focus off of the God we praise.  Instead, we admire the human talent that made the vessel or the human ability that cut the stone.

We become idolaters.  Our worship becomes profane.

This is what God accused the people of doing in Isaiah:

I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices;a people who provoke me to my face continually, sacrificing in gardens and making offerings on bricks” (Isaiah 65:2-3 ESV).

Israel ignored God’s mandate and chose instead to offer their sacrifice among garden flowers.  They had rejected simple stones in favor of brick altars.

Israel wanted to worship God their own way and on their own terms.  His instructions seemed superfluous and unnecessary.  Their ideas seemed so much nicer, so much better, so superior, so much more religious than God’s request for pure and uncut praise.

In the same way, God sometimes overturns our expectations of adequate offerings and suitable worship.

He desires the simplicity of an obedient heart.

We think He needs more.  

So, we hold back our offerings until they are “fit” for Him.  We hide in the sanctuary pews until we have more to give.  We think other worshipers, who are more talented and more rehearsed, give gifts more worthy.

It isn’t, however, about being the best, most talented, or most qualified; it’s about being called.  Yours is the offering He desires.  It is because of your heart of obedience that He can be glorified in the sacrifices you bring.

There is beauty in the uncut stones of our worship.  It’s never about the show, never about our own talent or training; it’s not about looking good or fitting in, or processing our worship into acceptable forms—all human additions that shift focus off God and onto human ability.

Instead, it’s about responding to God in pure uncut adoration.

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

A Penny for Your Video Game

He said he was selling his Wii for a penny.

She believed him.

A little boy in my daughter’s class announced on Friday that he had decided to peddle his $150 video game system for the bargain of a lifetime.  One cent and it was yours.

On Monday morning, I tousled my daughter’s hair as she slept and told her it was time to wake up and get ready for school.

“I’ll get up if you give me a penny,” she announced.

I thought she had been dreaming and was still half-asleep.

Three attempts to get her moving into the morning routine failed.  I finally discovered her reaching for her piggy bank to find her own coins.

Then the truth came out.  She had set her hopes on that one-cent treasure.  Her Daddy carried her to the couch and held her as she cried from disappointment when we told her the ugly truth.

That sometimes people don’t say what they mean.  Sometimes they make up stories.  Sometimes they talk without thinking—and certainly without asking their parents.  Sometimes they make promises and don’t keep them.

We’ve all felt the painful dashing of hopes and the shocking let-down of reality.  Whether it’s disappointment in ourselves or other people or disillusionment with God, it’s reason enough for a long cry on someone’s shoulder.

Sometimes it’s because we’ve been tricked.  Satan has duped us into settling for less than God’s best.  We’ve fallen prey to false advertising and empty promises.  We’ve trusted in people and, unfortunately, people aren’t always trustworthy.

The nation of Israel learned this lesson the hard way.

God specifically told them not to make treaties with the surrounding nations as they entered the Promised Land.  They were to conquer each territory completely.

The people of Gibeon knew that Israel was headed in their direction and they had heard how Israel had destroyed Jericho and Ai, so “they resorted to a ruse.”

They sent a delegation out to Joshua.  These men were dressed in rags and patches with broken sandals and dirty faces.  Their wineskins had cracked and been mended.  They even remembered to stash some moldy bread among the supplies.

Then, they told a lie: “We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us” (Joshua 9:6).

Our bread was warm and fresh when we started this journey.  Our clothes were brand new when we set out.  See the proof.  Believe what we are telling you.

Scripture tells us, “The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the LORD.  Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live (Joshua 9:14-15).

Three days later, Joshua found out who the Gibeonites really were.  They weren’t strangers from a distant land.  They were neighbors.  And they had tricked Israel into disobeying a direct commandment from God.

This commandment was for their benefit and protection.  God knew that Israel wouldn’t stay true to Him if they were surrounded by nations who worshiped false gods.   By the time of the Judges, “the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals.  They forsook the LORD, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them” (Judges 2:11-13).

The Israelites settled for less than God’s plan, all because they hadn’t inquired of the Lord.  They hadn’t asked for His input, discernment or insight.  Instead, they trusted in fake promises and had been disappointed in the result.

Have people let you down?  Have you trusted their promises only to discover lies and tricks?  Have you made poor decisions because false advertising made it all sound so good?

Remember to bring God into the midst of your every decision.  Inquire of the Lord before signing treaties and shaking hands in agreement.  There’s no need to rush or settle for what the world offers; be willing to wait for God’s best. 

Perhaps, though your disappointment isn’t with other people.  Maybe it’s with God.

Maybe you did trust in Him, waited for His best to come and yet you haven’t seen the answer to prayer . . .still.  Maybe you stood up for Him and don’t feel like He defended you.  Maybe you thought the Christian life meant perpetual blessing and prosperity, but your bank account, the doctor’s office, and your relationships aren’t the fairy tale life you imagined.

What then?  What do you do when you’re disillusioned with God?

Tell Him about it. Cry at His feet.  Tell Him how you’re heartbroken and hurting.  Mary and Martha weren’t afraid to tell Jesus, “If you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.”  They poured out all their pain and didn’t hold anything back.

We can be honest with God.

Then, keep praying.  Keep waiting.  Don’t ever give up on God.  He invites us into prayer with perseverance.  Pressing in before the throne, we keep “asking, seeking and knocking.”

He may not answer you in the way you expect.  He may not answer you as quickly as you’d like.  But He is committed to faithfulness, true to His promises and He cares for you.

You can read more devotionals about 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

Mom, This is Embarrassing

It was my oldest daughter’s first big school project and she was nervous about it.

After reading a book about a character named Flat Stanley, she had to color a picture of him, cut him out, take him all around town on some adventures and then write about all the things that Flat Stanley did.

“Mom,” she whined, “I don’t want everyone to see me playing with a paper doll!”

“What paper doll?  This isn’t a doll.  It’s Flat Stanley!  He’s a prop, maybe a puppet, perhaps your best friend. C’mon; it’ll be fun!”

I wasn’t persuasive enough for her.

So, we started out by posing in front of the statue in the center of our town square.  We waited until all the other sight-seers passed by and then whipped out Flat Stanley for a picture.  My daughter scanned the area to make sure nothing embarrassing happened.

He shared a picnic lunch with us, sat in the town supervisor’s chair, and then toured the  museum.  By this time, my daughter had overcome the embarrassment and discovered the crazy fun of the day.At our local park, he see-sawed, climbed, investigated a hollowed-out tree and swung on the rings.  Flat Stanley even completed the exercise trail!Tired from all of his adventures, Flat Stanley finished off the day with some frozen yogurt.The next day, we made sure Flat Stanley came to church, where he danced on the piano keys, of course!

As we toted this little guy around town, it was a clear reminder to me that God is our Emmanuel; He is God With Us.

This is our great assurance and comfort, so we can stop being all embarrassed about it.  No more whipping out God when only other Christians are around and posing for the necessary spiritual photos.  Like Paul, we can proclaim, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16).

Why be embarrassed when we have such a promise and hope?  This was God’s design from the beginning–to be with His people in everything they faced.  He shared perfect fellowship and communion with Adam and Eve as they strolled in a paradise garden together and chatted about their day.

Even when sin sundered their relationship, God designed ways to be with His people.  He gave instructions to Moses for the tabernacle, which was a portable worship center.  Everywhere the people traveled, they could worship and sacrifice to God.

God’s design for the tabernacle was specific.  He gave every detail of dimension and material.  It’s not because He’s a micromanager of a deity or because He’s dull and boring and liable to put people to sleep when you spend time with Him.

It’s for this one incredible and amazing reason—the tabernacle God designed for the earth is a reminder of what’s to come in heaven.  In Hebrews we read: “They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: ‘See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain'” (Hebrews 8:5).

Here’s the point.  The Tabernacle was God’s idea.  He created a way to be with His people wherever they went.

The temple, the set in stone, unmoveable center of worship in Jerusalem wasn’t God’s initial idea.  It was King David’s.

David wanted to make a permanent dwelling place for God on earth.  Even Nathan the prophet thought this sounded like a great idea and gave God’s blessing on the building project.

But God had something to say about this.  That night, He told Nathan the prophet, “I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought Israel up out of Egypt to this day. I have moved from one tent site to another, from one dwelling place to another” (1 Chronicles 17:5).

Ultimately, after David’s adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah (her husband), God prohibited David from building the temple at all, allowing his son, Solomon, to construct it instead.

But, all along God had another plan.  He sent Jesus—-God in human flesh.  He sent the Holy Spirit—the indwelling presence of God in our lives everyday and everywhere we go.

We don’t have to wait until heaven to feel His presence.

We don’t have to trek across the world on a spiritual pilgrimage to find the only place where God lives.

We don’t live with segregated lives for the times and places we meet with the God and the times and places we leave Him home.

We don’t face anything in this life alone.  Not one single trial.  Not one hurt.  Not any temptation or sadness.  No fear.

It is God’s presence in our lives at all times and in all places that brings us joy, hope, comfort and courage. As God said to Joshua, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

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