Bible Verses for the Times We are Overwhelmed

  • Exodus 33:14 NASB
    And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”
  • Psalm 18:1-2 NASB
    “I love You, O Lord, my strength.”
    The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
    My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;
    My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
  • Psalm 28:7 NASB
    The Lord is my strength and my shield;
    My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped;
    Therefore my heart exults,
    And with my song I shall thank Him.
  • Psalm 61:1-4 NASB
    Hear my cry, O God;
    Give heed to my prayer.
    From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint;
    Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
    For You have been a refuge for me,
    A tower of strength against the enemy.
    Let me [well in Your tent forever;
    Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings. 
  • Psalm  91:1-2 NASB
    He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
    I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
    My God, in whom I trust!”
  • Psalm 118: 5-7 CSB
    I called to the Lord in distress;
    the Lord answered me
    and put me in a spacious place.
    The Lord is for me; I will not be afraid.
    What can a mere mortal do to me?
    The Lord is my helper,
    Therefore, I will look in triumph on those who hate me.
  • Psalm 121:1-2 NASB
    I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
    From where shall my help come?
    My help comes from the Lord,
    Who made heaven and earth.
  • Proverbs 18:10 NASB
    The name of the Lord is a strong tower;
    The righteous runs into it and is [a]safe.
  • Isaiah 26:3-4 NASB
    “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace,
    Because he trusts in You.
    “Trust in the Lord forever,
    For in God the Lordwe have an everlasting Rock.
  • Isaiah 40:31 NASB
    Yet those who wait for the Lord
    Will gain new strength;
    They will mount up with wings like eagles,
    They will run and not get tired,
    They will walk and not become weary.
  • Isaiah 41:10 NASB
    ‘Do not fear, for I am with you;
    Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
    I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
    Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
  • Isaiah 43:1-2 NASB
    But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob,
    And He who formed you, O Israel,
    “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name; you are Mine!
    “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
    When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
    Nor will the flame burn you.
  • Nahum 1:7 NASB
    The Lord is good,
    A stronghold in the day of trouble,
    And He knows those who take refuge in Him.
  • Zechariah 4:6 NASB
     Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.
  • Matthew 11:28 NASB
    “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NASB
    we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
  • 2 Timothy 1:7 CSB
    For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power,love, and sound judgment.
  • James 5:11 CSB
    See, we count as blessed those who have endured. You have heard of Job’s endurance and have seen the outcome that the Lord brought about—the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

Dandelions are out; Tulips are in

A confession.

Until we put our house up for sale last year, I can’t say that dandelions ever bothered me very much.

So they were weeds.   So others didn’t like them.   So what?

I barely noticed them.  When the grass got cut, the dandelions got chopped down, too, and that seemed like enough.

When I wanted someone to buy our house, though,  I suddenly felt motivated to keep  my yard weed-free.

That’s when the war started. and I’ve brought the battle from the old house to the new, only this time I refuse to give up any territory.

These dandelions have overrun yards all over my new neighborhood, but not my yard.  Not this time.

I  pop those dandelions out by the root every time I take a walk or get the mail or just  head out the door to  the minivan.

But while I’m warring against the dandelions, I’m also choosing to fight for something else.

The whole time I’m digging out weeds, I’m cultivating tulips, watching over them like a mom does a newborn baby.  I marvel at every single hint of growth. I point out the first sprouts of green to my kids, and I wait expectantly for the first blooms  to appear.

In my old house, I planted tulips nearly every fall because I love their vibrant colors. They didn’t grow, though.  In the 13 years we lived in that house, I probably only had tulips bloom two of those years.

They were eaten. That’s why.   Apparently tulip bulbs are a high-class delicacy to voles, who tunneled all through the yard and snacked on my plants through the winter.

I’m determined, though–determined to keep the dandelions out and determined to keep the tulips in.  So I clicked my way through Google searches to find some tulip- growing remedies.   Then I headed out to the garden with a bag of crushed oyster shells and containers of garlic powder and  chili powder.  I mixed that fragrant little concoction up and dumped  it into the holes before I dropped the tulip bulbs in the soil.

The garden smelled like garlic for at least a week.

Now,  it’s spring. The tulips are about to bloom and I finally see the results of all that effort.

I have fought against and I have fought for.

Maybe that’s what I need to know spiritually, too.  That battling against is fine and well and good, but it’s incomplete if we aren’t also cultivating what is beautiful and right and enduring in its place.

James wrote:

16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and every evil practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without pretense.18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace (James 3:16-18 CSB). 

We dig out envy, pride, and evil.  We grow peace, gentleness, and mercy.

Paul told the Galatians:

 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy,outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy,drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar (Galatians 5:19-21 CSB). 

But that’s not the end.  It’s not enough to be rid of the flesh or pull out the sin; we need the Spirit to do a new work within us, and the fruit of the Spirit is:

love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23 CSB). 

I can deal with sin, take it seriously, talk about sin, focus on sin, try to conquer sin, determine not to sin, read about sin, listen to preachers preach about sin, recognize my sin, and constantly declare that I’m a sinner.

But I’m still missing out.  James moves past that.  Paul moves past that.

It’s fruitfulness they describe and it’s fruitfulness I really want.   I want more than a yard without dandelions.  I want the beauty of the tulips.

And that doesn’t happen if I’m focused on myself, my own efforts,  my own failures.   Fruitfulness requires abiding in Christ, lifting my eyes from my self to my Savior.

That’s when my life begins to bear fruit, His supernatural peace, not just the absence of worry, but a heart that loves peace and pursues peace with others.

That’s when He helps me to love even when it’s hard.  That’s when He grows gentleness, mercy, kindness, and goodness within me.   That’s when I have an abiding joy that isn’t determined by circumstances.   This is the Spirit’s work.

No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:4-5 NIV).

 

 

What caterpillars remember and I sometimes forget

There’s always a rebel.

This cup of caterpillars arrives in the mailbox and I set it up high so we can watch them grow.

And do they ever grow.

Within a few days, they start scaling the walls of the plastic cup and demonstrate their acrobatics by clinging to the lid and hanging upside down.  First one caterpillar, then another.

Every year, this one lone caterpillar delays.  All four of his roommates hang over his head and tuck themselves right up into a chrysalis.

The rebel caterpillar enjoys the food down below, munching at leisure, no more competition for the bug buffet.

Sometimes we wonder if he’ll ever climb on up there already!!

But inevitably he does.  One morning, he pads his way up to the top and drops himself upside down just like the others.  He wraps himself in the brown chrysalis and waits for the change.

Now all five of them hang in their mesh butterfly house, waiting to emerge.  Mostly they rest there, perfectly and completely still.

They look dead.

Totally, completely devoid of all life.

But we move their home just slightly and we see one caterpillar wiggle and squirm inside the chrysalis.

A sign of life now and a sign of life to come.

Could it be these insects know more about hope than we do? 

That even in a season of waiting, a time of rest, a moment of seeming-death, still they cling.  They submit to the dormancy for the beauty that is to come.

Maybe they know there is something more.  That hope and future God promises us, that’s why they climb on up, that’s why they hang themselves right upside down.

Because of what is to come.

And in the middle of the death seasons, the long waits and the God-mandated resting, sometimes we forget this.  We can abandon all hope of future, of promise, of new life and the return of joy.

It’s Holy Week.  Last Sunday, we waved those Palms and we sang, “Hosanna!”  Today, I prepare my heart for Good Friday to come, for Communion and remembrance and meditation on the cross.

I read this morning:

Jesus “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2 ESV).

Jesus knelt in that Garden and He prayed, “not my will, but Yours be done” despite the pain, and the humiliation, the torture, and the death because of the joy to come.

He submitted because of resurrection hope.

And we have this.  That empty tomb is our hope, too.  Our God, who defeated death and the grave, has a plan and a purpose, a hope, a future.  We are never alone.  We are fully loved and redeemed, forgiven and set free.

All that is dead can become life in His hands.  All that is broken can be beautiful.  All that is lost can be found.

He can make all things new.

Even the impossible becomes possible with Him.

That is resurrection joy.

Those caterpillars don’t abandon hope of life.  They don’t linger in that tomb of a chrysalis.  In due season, they push right on out and stretch and dry those wings so they can fly to freedom.

Jesus didn’t die on that cross hopelessly uncertain of the future.  He had his sights set on Sunday morning and the “joy set before Him.”  That’s why He endured that cross.

But we sometimes lose hope.

 

Just like the demon-possessed man who “for a long time …had not lived in a house but among the tombs” (Luke 8:27 ESV). 

He lived life in the tombs.  Maybe the sorrow felt more comfortable than the joy?  Maybe death felt less painful than life?

He preferred the grave.

And then there’s us

In seasons of waiting, maybe of sorrow, perhaps even of death, do we abandon ourselves to the bitterness and make ourselves cozy among the tombs?

Or do we cling to Christ because of resurrection hope? Do we hold on for dear life to the Savior who defeated death?

Do we hide away in the shadows and settle into the despair or do we run like crazy into His arms when He calls us out of darkness and into light?

So I remember what the caterpillars have known all along: even what seems like death is truly just waiting on new life.

Hold on tight, dear one.  He brings new life.  He brings beauty.  He brings you wings so you can soar.

Originally published April 14, 2014

Bible Verses on Joy #Advent

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  • 1 Chronicles 16:27 ESV
    Splendor and majesty are before him;
        strength and joy are in his place.
  • Nehemiah 8:10 ESV
    Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
  • Psalm 4:7 ESV
    You have put more joy in my heart
        than they have when their grain and wine abound.
  • Psalm 16:11 NIV
    You make known to me the path of life;
        you will fill me with joy in your presence,
        with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
  • Psalm 21:6 ESV
    For you make him most blessed forever;[a]
        you make him glad with the joy of your presence.
  • Psalm 30:5 ESV
    For his anger is but for a moment,
    and his favor is for a lifetime.
    Weeping may tarry for the night,
    but joy comes with the morning.
  • Psalm 47:1 ESV
    Clap your hands, all peoples!
        Shout to God with loud songs of joy!
  • Psalm 51:12 ESV
    Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
        and uphold me with a willing spirit.
  • Psalm 71:23 ESV
    My lips will shout for joy,
        when I sing praises to you;
        my soul also, which you have redeemed.
  • Psalm 94:19 NIV
    When anxiety was great within me,
    your consolation brought me joy.
  • Psalm 100:1 ESV
    Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
  • Psalm 105:43 ESV
    So he brought his people out with joy,
        his chosen ones with singing.
  • Psalm 119:111 NIV
    Your statutes are my heritage forever;
        they are the joy of my heart.
  • Psalm 126:5 ESV
    Those who sow in tears
        shall reap with shouts of joy!
  • Proverbs 10:28 ESV
    The hope of the righteous brings joy,
        but the expectation of the wicked will perish.
  • Proverbs 15:23 ESV
    To make an apt answer is a joy to a man,
    and a word in season, how good it is!
  • Proverbs 17:22 ESV
    A joyful heart is good medicine,
        but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
  • Isaiah 9:3 ESV
    You have multiplied the nation;
        you have increased its joy;
    they rejoice before you
        as with joy at the harvest,
        as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
  • Isaiah 12:6 ESV
    Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
        for great in your[a] midst is the Holy One of Israel.”
  • Isaiah 29:19 ESV
    The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord,
        and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.
  • Isaiah 35:10 ESV
    And the ransomed of the Lord shall return
    and come to Zion with singing;
    everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
    they shall obtain gladness and joy,
    and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
  • Isaiah 55:12 ESV
    For you shall go out in joy
        and be led forth in peace;
    the mountains and the hills before you
        shall break forth into singing,
        and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
  • John 16:22 ESV
    So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.
  • John 16:24 NIV
     Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.
  • Romans 12:12 NIV
    Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
  • Romans 14:17 ESV
    For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
  • Romans 15:13 ESV
    May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
  • Galatians 5:22-23 NIV
    But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
  • Colossians 1:11 ESV
     being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy;
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV
    Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
  • Philemon 1:7 ESV
    For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.
  • 1 Peter 1:8 ESV
     Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,
  • Jude 1:24 ESV
     Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy

The Craziest Thing Anyone Ever Said to Me at Target

psalm 30-11I’d been married a week.

A week.

We visited my great-grandmother and she asked me, “So, when are you going to give your mom some grandbabies?”

A week.

I thought the question was mildly shocking, moderately annoying and mostly downright crazy talk.

But, you know, what can you do?  So, I giggled awkwardly or something and dodged the whole wildly uncomfortable conversation.

Not long after that, I was having dinner with a dear friend in a crowd of other friendly folks and someone asked her the question.

“So you’ve been married for a few years now.  When are you going to have kids?”

I thought the question was mildly shocking, moderately annoying and mostly downright crazy intrusive….

It was so much more than that for her.  It was deeply painful, treading like heavy steel-toed boots all over the most tender places of her broken heart.

That’s what she told me later.  How no one ever thought before they asked her that question…and people asked her ALL the time.

When are you having kids?  When are you having kids?  When are you having kids?

The truth was that she was desperate for a baby and yet it isn’t just that easy for everyone, is it?  Hadn’t she prayed and prayed?  Hadn’t she tried and seen the doctor and then had to answer the clueless questions of nosy onlookers?

We just think we’re making conversation, but we’re really battering and bruising the sweet soul we’re chatting with over dinner.

Sometimes, it’s ridiculously comical.  Like when I stood in the shoe section at the Target with my three blond-headed beautiful daughters, my youngest at the time less than 2 months old.  Such precious gifts to me.

And this random lady waltzed right on over and gave me creepily personal tips on how to have a boy next time.

In the Target.

With my kids there.

And I didn’t know her.

Good gravy.

Or when people see my beloved little boy and say right there in front of my three precious girls, “So, you finally got your boy.  I bet your husband is happy.”

Like my daughters were just three attempts at having a son gone wrong.

We just say things, don’t we?  We aren’t meaning to be mean or hurtful.  We just say….stuff….  It seems innocent enough and we just don’t think maybe there’s a world of hurt left trailing after our destructive conversation.

It doesn’t get any harder than when we see a loved one grieving. We want so much to say the right words, soothe the hurt, ease their throbbing pain because we love them so.

But sometimes we get it all wrong.  We try to cover over their hurt with platitudes that sound so right, “It’s God’s will.  It’s for the best.  He always works everything out for the good” and yet what we’re essentially saying is, ‘Suck it up and get over it.  You’re a Christian so you shouldn’t be sad.”

Holley Gerth says in What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days:

While we mean well, comments like those are like stripping off someone’s sackcloth. Instead of helping, we leave their hearts even more exposed. What our hearts need is something new to cover them in hard times. And that’s what God offers.

We leave their hearts raw and exposed, open to further wounding.

Yet, God, such a gracious God, covers us with protection and love.

“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever” Psalm 30:11-12

It takes time, yes, it can take so much time.  But he does this—he removes our sackcloth and clothes us with joy.

And what I want to be is the kind of person who shares this grace with others.

We won’t get it right all the time.  We’ll say the wrong thing and maybe mess it all up.  Maybe we just don’t even know what to say when we are eyewitnesses to the hurt inflicted by a sin-stained planet.

But we can start here.

Dear friend, I don’t even have the right words, but I love you.  I am praying for you.  I am here for you.

And we can start here—-thinking through our questions before we ask them, so we don’t leave a hurting heart raw and exposed after what we just thought was casual, totally normal small-talk.

And we can start here, praying this:  Dear God, May we be wise and grace-filled in our conversations with others today.  May we speak the words that show Your love—and nothing less than that.—Amen.

Originally published 09/24/2014

We Can Never Know What It’s Really Like

love does not envy

The regimental surgeon made us squirm as he held up what looked like medieval torture devices, but were really medical tools used in the Revolutionary War.

A farmer’s wife rolled a slightly wrinkled potato in a barrel of sand, lifted the lid to a jar of pickled eggs, and ran her hand through the dried fruit and beans she had prepared.

The cloth maker laid wool and linen socks out to dry after dipping them in a natural yellow dye of onion skin.IMG_3442

At the encampment, the soldiers drilled us on firing a cannon before shouting out, “make ready” and signaling us all to cover our ears for the blast.

This summer we’ve toured two of the three major historic sites in our area, asked all the usual questions about 17th and 18th century life, and chatted about whether we would want to live before refrigeration, air conditioning, indoor plumbing, voting rights for women, the abolition of slavery, the discovery of antibiotics, and the creation of Wal-Mart and Target.

We think not.

But we happily visit to see how people lived in other times without experiencing extreme levels of discomfort ourselves.

Sure, we might be losing ten pounds a day sweating in the middle of July while listening to the interpreters talk about cooking in clay ovens and fighting the British army.

But, we’re wearing short sleeves and shorts and we retreat to air conditioning as soon as the tour ends.

And really, aren’t we always prevented from fully experiencing life as another person?

We might glance over someone’s life, making judgments and assumptions from a safe distance, but we’ll never fully know what it feels like to be her.

It’s a lesson that trips me into pits of envy and shocks me into disappointment over and over again.

Women I’ve thought were perfect, the ones I envied, had the houses, the marriages, the kids, the finances, the vacations, the looks and style I wanted–everything just exactly right–these same women shouldered burdens I couldn’t see and carried weights I couldn’t comprehend.

I made my assumptions based on superficial evidence and my envy grew based on inaccurate and unfair comparisons between what her life appeared to be and what I knew my life was.

Yet, inevitably the façade collapses.  The truth is no one’s life is perfect.  Too often the closed doors of her pristine home concealed struggles and strife no one expected or knew existed.

If we’re ever to overcome envy, we have to stop being duped by projected images and pretend lives.

Instead, we choose contentment in our own real lives with our real husbands in our real homes with our real kids.

Because the endless comparisons cost us contentment, rob us of peace, and steal our joy.

Kay Warren writes:

Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right and the determined choice to praise God in all things (Choose Joy)

In a similar way, George Fox wrote this prayer:

Grant us, O Lord, the blessing of those whose minds are stayed on You, so that we may be kept in perfect peace: a peace which cannot be broken.  Let not our minds rest upon any creature, but only in the Creator; not upon goods, things, houses, lands, inventions of vanities, or foolish fashions, lest, our peace being broken, we become cross and brittle and given over to envy.  From all such, deliver us, O God, and grant us Your peace  (Yours is the Day, Lord; Yours is the Night, 42).

We choose peace when we discipline our mind to be content with what God has given us. 

More than this.  We don’t just accept the gifts God gives; we are grateful for them.  We find ways to give thanks even when it’s hard.

We redirect our mind whenever we focus on what we don’t have and choose instead to praise God for what He’s done and how He’s blessed us.

Proverbs tells us:

“A tranquil heart is life to the body, but jealousy is rottenness to the bones” (Proverbs 14:30 HCSB).

Envy can eat us up like cancer, destroying us from the inside out.  It’s crippling, devastating, and, if left untreated, all-consuming.

But that tranquil heart is a heart at peace, content with God’s gifts, certain that God uniquely designed you for these blessings and this life.

Yes, His gifts to us are good.

It’s a heart quietly and purposefully thankful for what is real rather than fooled into wanting imagined perfections, fictional ideals, faulty perceptions, and mistaken judgments.

Contentment requires getting real and getting grateful, recognizing that we don’t need perfection in order to have joy; we just need Jesus.

Originally published 7/19/2013

Joy and April Fools and Finding New Strength

nehemiah8

Two years ago, I glued googly eyes to all of the food in our refrigerator, swapped my kids’ clothes around into different dressers, and stuffed toilet paper into their shoes.10152562_10202409425731544_115203408_n

Last year, I swapped out all of their regular shoes for doll shoes and acted like they shrunk over night.

IMG_3500

I drew terrified faces on the hard-boiled eggs I packed in their lunch box with the message “Don’t eat me!”

IMG_3499

And, I lined up their stuffed animals in the bathroom as if they were all waiting for the toilet.

IMG_3501

This year, I’m sending my kids to school with gummy worms hanging out of the apples in their lunches.

And, I’ve turned all the pictures and knick knacks and everything I can get my hands on upside down in the night so they wake up to an upside-down house.

I hate pranks.  It’s just not my kind of humor.

But I knew my kids would get a kick out of my April Fool’s fun, especially my one girl.  Maybe my other kids would laugh at mom’s silliness, but this girl of mine would cackle.

So, I’ve been lightening up a little and celebrating April Fool’s Day as a mom.

It’s because I love my kids and I love this wacky, quirky, silly-joke-telling, comic-book-reading girl of mine.

Maybe she teaches me a little how to choose joy.

This world can batter us and beat us with depressing news and overwhelming sorrow.

But we have Good News.

God Himself came to earth in human flesh, received the punishment we deserve for our sin, died in our place and rose again, offering us eternal life with Him in heaven.

This Good News should root itself deep into our hearts and make our lives blossom with joy.

It’s an excitement that maybe the world just doesn’t get.  Maybe they don’t understand.

Maybe we miss it sometimes ourselves.  We talk about Easter or new life in Christ like it’s blah, blah, blah….words in a book, something that happened a long time ago, information for our head never impacting our heart and life.

Unfortunately, we become immune over time to the message’s impact.  We forget the joy.  We forget the wonder and excitement.

And when we imagine Jesus Himself healing people and teaching them, so often we picture Him as a melancholy Savior, all staid, straight-laced and serious.

Surely, though, he must have smiled a bit as Nicodemus puzzled out the meaning of “born again.”

When Jesus deftly sidestepped the theological traps laid by the Pharisees and Sadducees, I imagine He did it with an internal grin.

As He delivered the revolutionary Sermon on the Mount, Jesus could not have been a boring monotone preacher.  He held the crowd’s attention for two solid chapters worth of teaching in Matthew 5-7.  There must have been some joy there!

And I hardly think children would climb all over Jesus’ lap if He frowned and scowled and scolded.

Jesus is a joy-filled Savior teaching us to live with the joy of God’s presence.

Not that our life circumstances always make joy easy.  Sometimes we feel like our “cup runneth over” and sometimes we feel like our cup is all poured out.  What then?

Nehemiah faced a crowd of Israelites who felt too overcome by their sin, too full of repentant sorrow to feel joy. Yet he told them,

“Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

We have our weak days, our weary days, our times of feeling out of control, confused, worried uncertain, scared, sad, and broken into a million pieces.

Yet, the joy of the Lord is our strength.

It’s not the fake, paste-on-a-smile joy or the pretend-like-the-world-is-perfect joy.

It’s living fully confident that God is sovereign.  We are in His hands and His hands can be trusted.

That’s what gives us strength to face each day, that quiet assurance of His love and His might.

So, we rejoice together when we consider the Good News of the Gospel.

We rejoice in God’s presence, in His accessibility to us at all times, in His compassion, in His faithfulness and unfailing love.

We rejoice in the journey of our faith, knowing that wherever He takes us, He is present there with us, even in darkness and long journeys through the valley.

Still we have joy.

“always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4, NLT)

Originally published 4/1/2015

When Wonder Never Ceases

psalm 71

Every spring for the past five years or so, we’ve watched caterpillars climb to the top of a tiny cup, flip themselves upside down, spin a chrysalis, and emerge a week later as butterflies.

This year, though, my daughters suggested doing something different.

After all, we’re old hands at this metamorphosis thing.

How about something new?

What if we ordered a frog kit instead?  The company sends us a tadpole. We watch it become a frog and then we release it in a local pond.  Perfect!

So, I started researching frog kits and we were all excited until I read the comments.  These frogs live for 20-30 years.

I wasn’t sure I wanted such a long-term commitment.  My children should be off living adult lives by then and I’d still be home tending to our everlasting frog.

And we couldn’t release this frog to any old outdoor body of water either.  The frogs in the kit aren’t native to our area, and that could devastate the local wildlife population.

So, we decided that unless we found a local tadpole who we could raise to become a local frog, we’d stick to caterpillars in a cup.

I’m so glad we did.

Those caterpillars arrived and my son watched their centimeter long bodies creep around the plastic.

He learned how to say ‘caterpillar’ and he said it over and over and over, pointing at them to make sure I’d seen them and knew they were in our house sitting on our fireplace mantle.

He couldn’t wait to share the good news about the caterpillars. He told me. He told his dad.  He told his sisters.  He told the air.  “Caterpillar, caterpillar, caterpillar.”

And then each caterpillar spun into a chrysalis and my son learned a new word and made more grand announcements.

The translation went something like this:

“Caterpillar go up.  Sleeping in chrysalis.”

Who knew an unmoving chrysalis could be so entertaining?  He’d watch the cup just as happily as if the caterpillars were still crawling around in there.

Then the most exciting day came.  We peeked into the bug carrier and saw our first butterfly, completely still, waiting for his wings to dry.

My son now had big news.  Big, big news.

“Caterpillar go up.  Sleep in chrysalis.  Butterfly.”

As more butterflies emerged, they began fluttering around and hopping onto the flowers we’d left for them.

And my son giggled.  He just laughed and laughed at the sight.

In all our planning and thinking that maybe the butterfly thing was old-news and maybe we should try something different, I’d forgotten that even though we’d seen the butterflies transform year after year, he hadn’t.

For my son, this was newfound joy.  This was childlike wonder and living amazed at the beauty of new life.

In Luke 5, I read about the disciples limping onto shore after a long and unsuccessful night of fishing.

They’d caught nothing.

Yet, Jesus sends them back out.  He tells them to set down those same nets into that same water.

Simon Peter protests at first but chooses to obey.  They take the boat out.  They put down the nets yet again.

And they haul in the catch of all catches.

Their nets broke with the weight of the fish.  They yelled for partners to join them out on the water to haul in the load faster.

Luke writes:

…he (Peter) and all those with him were amazed at the catch of fish they took  (Luke 5:9 HCSB).

They were amazed.  They were flabbergasted and overwhelmed by awe.  They were made breathless by the wonder.

I bet they were pulling with all their might, load after load, like the fish just wouldn’t stop coming, and they must have been breathless and laughing in astonishment.

They’d yanked nets of fish into their boats many times before.  This was different.  This was God-at-work.

Years from then, those disciples would see the lame dance, the blind see, the deaf hear, food multiplied to feed a crowd, and their crucified Savior resurrected.

But right at this moment, they marveled at a boat weighed down with fish.

I pause and ask for this:

Lord, help me be amazed. Like my son standing on a kitchen stool so he can watch butterflies bounce around their home…..like the disciples exclaiming over an inexplicable abundance of fish….let me rejoice in you.

Don’t let me lose the wonder, not the wonder of the cross, the wonder of your creation, the wonder of your grace poured out in every detail of my life.

Help me to see afresh.  Help me to consider anew.  Fill me with such childlike joy in the Good News that I can’t help but share it over and over and over.

This is the LORD’S doing; It is marvelous in our eyes (Psalm 118:23).

Here’s the Good News

nehemiah8“Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions”
Psalm 45:7

Last year, I glued googly eyes to all of the food in our refrigerator, swapped my kids’ clothes around into different dressers, and stuffed toilet paper into their shoes.10152562_10202409425731544_115203408_n

This year, I swapped out all of their regular shoes for doll shoes and acted like they shrunk over night.

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I drew terrified faces on the hard-boiled eggs I packed in their lunch box with the message “Don’t eat me!”

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And, I lined up their stuffed animals in the bathroom as if they were all waiting for the toilet.

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I hate pranks.  It’s just not my kind of humor.

But I knew my kids would get a kick out of my April Fool’s fun, especially my one girl.  Maybe my other kids would laugh at mom’s silliness, but this girl of mine would cackle.

So, I’ve been lightening up a little and celebrating April Fool’s Day as a mom.

It’s because I love my kids and I love this wacky, quirky, silly-joke-telling, comic-book-reading girl of mine.

Maybe she teaches me a little how to choose joy.

This world can batter us and beat us with depressing news and overwhelming sorrow.

But we have Good News.

God Himself came to earth in human flesh, received the punishment we deserve for our sin, died in our place and rose again, offering us eternal life with Him in heaven.

This Good News should root itself deep into our hearts and make our lives blossom with joy.

It’s an excitement that maybe the world just doesn’t get.  Maybe they don’t understand.

Maybe we miss it sometimes ourselves.  We talk about Easter or new life in Christ like it’s blah, blah, blah….words in a book, something that happened a long time ago, information for our head never impacting our heart and life.

Unfortunately, we become immune over time to the message’s impact.  We forget the joy.  We forget the wonder and excitement.

And when we imagine Jesus Himself healing people and teaching them, so often we picture Him as a melancholy Savior, all staid, straight-laced and serious.

Surely, though, he must have smiled a bit as Nicodemus puzzled out the meaning of “born again.”

When Jesus deftly sidestepped the theological traps laid by the Pharisees and Sadducees, I imagine He did it with an internal grin.

As He delivered the revolutionary Sermon on the Mount, Jesus could not have been a boring monotone preacher.  He held the crowd’s attention for two solid chapters worth of teaching in Matthew 5-7.  There must have been some joy there!

And I hardly think children would climb all over Jesus’ lap if He frowned and scowled and scolded.

Jesus is a joy-filled Savior teaching us to live with the joy of God’s presence.

Not that our life circumstances always make joy easy.  Sometimes we feel like our “cup runneth over” and sometimes we feel like our cup is all poured out.  What then?

Nehemiah faced a crowd of Israelites who felt too overcome by their sin, too full of repentant sorrow to feel joy. Yet he told them,

“Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

We have our weak days, our weary days, our times of feeling out of control, confused, worried uncertain, scared, sad, and broken into a million pieces.

Yet, the joy of the Lord is our strength.

It’s not the fake, paste-on-a-smile joy or the pretend-like-the-world-is-perfect joy.

It’s living fully confident that God is sovereign.  We are in His hands and His hands can be trusted.

That’s what gives us strength to face each day, that quiet assurance of His love and His might.

So, we rejoice together when we consider the Good News of the Gospel.

We rejoice in God’s presence, in His accessibility to us at all times, in His compassion, in His faithfulness and unfailing love.

We rejoice in the journey of our faith, knowing that wherever He takes us, He is present there with us, even in darkness and long journeys through the valley.

Still we have joy.

“always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4, NLT)

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.

The Craziest Thing Anyone Has Ever Said to Me In Target

I’d been married a week.

A week.

We visited my great-grandmother and she asked me, “So, when are you going to give your mom some grandbabies?”

A week.

I thought the question was mildly shocking, moderately annoying and mostly downright crazy talk.psalm 30

But, you know, what can you do?  So, I giggled awkwardly or something and dodged the whole wildly uncomfortable conversation.

Not long after that, I was having dinner with a dear friend in a crowd of other friendly folks and someone asked her the question.

“So you’ve been married for a few years now.  When are you going to have kids?”

I thought the question was mildly shocking, moderately annoying and mostly downright crazy intrusive….

It was so much more than that for her.  It was deeply painful, treading like heavy steel-toed boots all over the most tender places of her broken heart.

That’s what she told me later.  How no one ever thought before they asked her that question…and people asked her ALL the time.

When are you having kids?  When are you having kids?  When are you having kids?

The truth was that she was desperate for a baby and yet it isn’t just that easy for everyone, is it?  Hadn’t she prayed and prayed?  Hadn’t she tried and seen the doctor and then had to answer the clueless questions of nosy onlookers?

We just think we’re making conversation and we’re really battering and bruising the sweet soul we’re chatting with over dinner.

Sometimes, it’s ridiculously comical.  Like when I stood in the shoe section at the Target with my three blond-headed beautiful daughters, my youngest at the time less than 2 months old.  Such precious gifts to me.

And this random lady waltzed right on over and gave me creepily personal tips on how to have a boy next time.

In the Target.

With my kids there.

And I didn’t know her.

Good gravy.

Or when people see my beloved baby boy and say right there in front of my three precious girls, “So, you finally got your boy.  I bet your husband is happy.”

Like my daughters were just three attempts at having a son gone wrong.

We just say things, don’t we?  We aren’t meaning to be mean or hurtful.  We just say….stuff….  It seems innocent enough and we just don’t think maybe there’s a world of hurt left trailing after our destructive conversation.

It doesn’t get any harder than when we see a loved one grieving. We want so much to say the right words, soothe the hurt, ease their throbbing pain because we love them so.

But sometimes we get it all wrong.  We try to cover over their hurt with platitudes that sound so right, “It’s God’s will.  It’s for the best.  He always works everything out for the good” and yet what we’re essentially saying is, ‘Suck it up and get over it.  You’re a Christian so you shouldn’t be sad.”

Holley Gerth says in What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days:

While we mean well, comments like those are like stripping off someone’s sackcloth. Instead of helping, we leave their hearts even more exposed. What our hearts need is something new to cover them in hard times. And that’s what God offers.

We leave their hearts raw and exposed, open to further wounding.

Yet, God, such a gracious God, covers us with protection and love.

“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever” Psalm 30:11-12

It takes time, yes, it can take so much time.  But he does this—he removes our sackcloth and clothes us with joy.What-Your-Heart-Needs-for-the-Hard-Days

And what I want to be is the kind of person who shares this grace with others.

We won’t get it right all the time.  We’ll say the wrong thing and maybe mess it all up.  Maybe we just don’t even know what to say when we are eyewitnesses to the hurt inflicted by a sin-stained planet.

But we can start here.

Dear friend, I don’t even have the right words, but I love you.  I am praying for you.  I am here for you.

And we can start here—-thinking through our questions before we ask them, so we don’t leave a hurting heart raw and exposed after what we just thought was casual, totally normal small-talk.

And we can start here, praying this:  Dear God, May we be wise and grace-filled in our conversations with others today.  May we speak the words that show Your love—and nothing less than that.—Amen.

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