Weekend Walk, 09/03/2011

I hated missing out on last week’s Weekend Walk and the opportunity to choose a verse to meditate on all week.  I hope you blazed ahead without me and chose a verse of your own.  If not, I’ll get us back on track today!

Hiding the Word:

At Women of Faith, my friend leaned over and pointed to a verse in her prayer journal that she had underlined.  It was perfect as we contemplated the imminent arrival of Hurricane Irene.  The day after the storm, I opened my devotional and found the exact same verse.  When God repeats Himself, I have learned to listen.  So, my verse for this week is simple and sweet:

Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
Matthew 28:20

This week, I’m committed to contemplating the ever-constant presence of Christ in my life.  I want to be aware of Him rather than distant from Him.  I want to rely on Him rather than be independent.

Weekend Rerun:

Your Comforts Delight My Soul, Originally Posted 02/21/2011

Last night I had a terrible dream that I was preparing to lead worship—sitting at the piano all ready to go—when I saw my cell phone bill.  Obviously, in dreams it makes total sense that I’m checking my mail just before the music starts.  Anyway, I looked at that bill and it was $1,717. Then the music started and I couldn’t worship.  I couldn’t figure out what words to sing or what notes to play.  I was playing a different song than the congregation was singing.  It was a disaster.

Obviously, I woke up in a cold sweat from this dream (who wouldn’t be freaked out by a cell phone bill and public disaster like that) and couldn’t get back to sleep for a while.  I was anxious and worried about something that only existed in my dreamworld.

Today, as I was doing my devotions, I was reminded of how so much of my worry is about “fantasy situations”—the what if’s I stress over that never actually come true.  These anxious thoughts also always affect my worship.  It is just not possible to fret and praise at the same time.

In her book, Me, Myself and Lies, Jennifer Rothschild notes that the Old English and Old High German origins of our word “worry” mean “to strangle.”  Indeed, worry strangles us, choking out hope, joy, trust and, as it says in her book, “the life-giving truth that should be filling our thought closets” (p.23).

The Psalmist wrote, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts, See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24, NIV). I have always loved that verse and I copy it into my journal every time I read it in my devotional time.  Yet, it’s not something I find easy to do.

It’s difficult sometimes to hand over our thought lives to God.  Even though we know worry harms us and our relationship with God, we don’t want God to search our hearts and test our thoughts.  Somehow worrying makes us feel in control and we feel that handing over our anxieties means truly relinquishing any modicum of control we have in our lives.

Thomas Merton said, “Anxiety comes from strain, and strain is caused by too complete a dependence on ourselves.”  It’s true that when it’s broken down, worry essentially is a lack of trust or dependence on God.  We’re telling Him—“we know that Scripture promises us You will provide, You will comfort, You will bring peace, You will be our Advocate, but I’d rather just depend on my ability to fix my circumstances.  Thanks anyway, God”

Chris Tiegreen in Worship The King goes one step even farther than that.  He calls our fear “anti-worship.”  In his devotional, he writes:

But we who worship God cannot praise him with such insecurities.  Our fears are a form of anti-worship–a clear declaration that our God might not have promised us enough, or might not be able to follow through on what He has promised.  Yes, He will let us go through hard things, but never outside of His timing or beyond His protection. So worship Him.  And don’t worry about it.

Refusing to worry, fret, stress, fear and be anxious doesn’t come to us naturally.  It is a discipline of the heart and mind.  We must reject anxious thoughts, deny our emotions the opportunity to take over our lives, and fill up with the truth of God’s Word and His promises to us.

In Psalm 94:19 it says, “In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.” Take delight in His comfort today and consciously choose trust over fear.

In Kathryn Scott’s song, At the Foot of the Cross, she sings, “I lay every burden down at the foot of the cross.”  That’s the best place for those burdens to be—not on our back, but at His feet.

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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

Momma Said There’d Be Days Like This, Part II

If you’ve been traveling with me on this devotional for journey for any amount of time, you’d know that I love God, my husband, my daughters, hot tea with lots of sugar, chocolate, and quiet times at my kitchen table.

This week started rough (but is getting better all the time!!), and two cups of strong, sweet, hot tea and several mini chocolate bars weren’t helping me through the day.  Despite repeated attempts to have the kind of quiet time with God I really enjoy, that wasn’t happening either.  I was interrupted or cut short on time or distracted or just incapable of understanding the words I read off the page (read paragraph, reread paragraph, sigh, drink tea, read paragraph again).

What I longed for was a God-encounter.  I was so thirsty for Him in the midst of stress and noise and I desperately held my cup out for Him to fill at the fountain of Living Water.  This time with Him that I adore and that helps me through my everyday seemed so elusive and unfulfilling, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.  It wasn’t until I stopped attempting to separate my time with God and simply sought Him as I traveled along that I felt His presence and heard the lessons He was sharing.

You can read Lesson 1: My Feelings Can’t Be the Boss of Me here.

Lesson 2: Worship God, Not The Habit

Jesus told His disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31).  He called them to the discipline of aloneness, quietness before God, spiritual retreating from the crowds and activity to spend focused time one-on-one with God.  Those are sacred times of purposeful seeking God’s face.

I have high expectations for those moments with my Savior and that is precious time to me, time that I guard fiercely.  That’s no easy task when you have young kids and a telephone and email and a to-do list!  Yet, it’s a battle worth waging in order to see Him, hear Him, feel Him, know Him.

Yesterday, though, I kept traveling to my kitchen table and pulling out my Bible and journal, my Bible study book, my devotionals and then sipping my cup of tea, but still walking away unfilled.  My cup was held out.  I had traveled to the Fountain.  I remained thirsty.  My cup did not overflow.

This week, I read in My Utmost for His Highest: “Watch how your Father will upset your schedule if you begin to worship your habit instead of what the habit symbolizes.  We say, ‘I can’t do that right now; this is my time alone with God.’  No, this is your time alone with your habit . . . The only supernatural life is the life the Lord Jesus lived, and He was at home with God anywhere.”

As I drove around town yesterday, frazzled and tired, that quote was prodding my heart and mind.  Oswald Chambers wasn’t advocating not spending time alone with God.  He wasn’t saying, “Forget trying to read your Bible and pray; it’s not important.”  It is important.  That time is necessary and life-giving.

Yet, it is also not a vending machine where I make an investment in time and pay the required amount (quiet time, study materials, journal, tea) and receive in return treats and goodies (peace, feeling close to God, receiving inspiration, having something great to write in my journal).  There’s that danger, always the danger, of making a god of something other than God.  I can worship the time I spend with God or I can worship God Himself.  The distinction is so fine, but also so necessary.

Jacob traveled to the same place twice in His journeys and met God there in powerful ways through visions and dreams and conversations with the Almighty Himself.  The first time, Jacob fled from His family home in order to avoid the homicidal wrath of his brother, Esau.  In the night, after a divine dream, Jacob “called the name of that place Bethel” or House of God.

Jacob returned to Bethel years later, after marrying and having children, having his named changed by God, traveling home to Canaan, reconciling with his brother, and settling again in the family land.  This time, though, “he built an altar there, and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed Himself to him when he fled from his brother” (Genesis 35:17). El-bethel means God of the House of God.

Did you notice the slight difference?

The first time, Jacob focused on the place, the things, the experience.  The second time, after years of experience and maturing, Jacob focused on God Himself.  Beth Moore in The Patriarchs wrote that sometimes we are tempted to “love loving God more than we actually love God.”

We love small group, Sunday School, the songs at church, the Christian radio station,  a devotional, our quiet times, a particular author that challenges us . . .  but are we followers of a Christian lifestyle or followers of Christ?  Do we love books by Christian authors more than we love the Bible?  Do we love our spiritual routines or the God those routines  are supposed to reveal to us?  Do we love the feeling of being close to God or God and God alone?

There are these life moments when God shakes us up in all of our comfort and complacency and takes away even something good for a time, so that we can worship God and not a spiritual habit.  He longs to meet with us during our quiet times and in our prayer closets.  He fills us up as we open up The Word and copy verses into our journals.

But, He’s there with us at the kitchen sink, too, willing to speak to our hearts as we wash the dishes.  He’s with us as we rock the baby in the night and while we pop on the chauffeur’s hat and hop into the minivan to drive children to activities all over town.  The distinction between a mundane task and a sacred moment is whether we’re listening to Him while performing it.  We should set aside focused time for our relationship with God, and yet we shouldn’t allow it to become formulaic or predictable, nor should it be a compartmentalized part of our life that fails to spill over into our chores and family life.  If we do, God will likely stir our hearts and mess with our plans—all to recenter our hearts on Him alone.

Are you hungry for a worshipful moment, just the simplicity of seeking after Him?  I’ve been singing along with Kathryn Scott the past few days and it’s lifting my heart!  I hope you spend some moments worshiping with her, too.


I’ve also added a page called Singing in My Car that has links to the songs I mention in the blog.  Check out the page and maybe find some songs that encourage you today!

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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