The Grandest Invitation Ever

Revelation 19I’m guessing I was in middle school.

Really, there’s not much I remember about why I was there or when I was there or even who was with me.  I think it was probably a band field trip up to Pennsylvania for a music competition.

But here’s what I do remember, walking into a large open room surrounded by windows and seeing table after table covered in crisp, bleached white tablecloths, each one set with an elaborate place-setting that included multiple forks and spoons.

I’m just a teenage-ish girl away from home with a bunch of other middle schoolers about to eat at a place far nicer than our normal class trip stops at McDonald’s or Wendy’s.

Even now, I’m the kind of girl who eats at restaurants where kids can get their drinks in styrofoam cups with lids and straws.

(Okay, maybe I can get my drink in that styrofoam cup).

This place was an intimidating beast of a dining room with significant glassware and cloth napkins.

What was I doing there?

I grew up in a home where we learned table manners, so I knew how to put my napkin on my lap and not lean on the table with my elbows.

But, I’ll still never forget that initial feeling of walking into such a fancy place and thinking, “I get to eat here? There’s not some back room for middle school girls from the suburbs?”

Maybe you’ve never felt out of place or like a small and insignificant girl feeling a little overwhelmed and a lot like you don’t belong there.

But I sure have.

I’ve felt uncomfortable and unworthy.

I’ve felt humbled and speechless and afraid to make one wrong move because maybe they’ll figure out the truth: that I’m an imposter who doesn’t deserve to be here.

So, as I was studying the book of Ruth and reading Kelly Minter’s book, I just wished so desperately I could pour myself a cup of tea and this amazing author could pour herself a cup of coffee and we could chat because Kelly got ‘it.’

She got everything about how it feels to be an imposter welcomed to a table.

Ruth 2:14 says:

And at mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over.

Up to this point in the book of Ruth, the author has made a huge, whopping, big deal about the fact that Ruth is a foreign woman. Even worse, she’s a Moabite foreign woman.

She didn’t even deserve to glean in the fields of Boaz and certainly wasn’t worthy of anyone’s notice, especially not someone as wealthy and powerful as Boaz.

Yet, after months of watching Ruth’s hard work and seeing her faithful care for her mother-in-law, Boaz invites her to the table with his employees and blesses her with abundance.

She eats everything she could eat and still had leftovers.

Immediately, I thought of how much this sounded like Mephibosheth, the crippled son of Jonathan whom King David invited to share the king’s table night after night.

(Kelly Minter thought the same thing.  I’m telling you, we were totally clicking that day!)

Mephibosheth was the grandson of King Saul.  When David became king, everyone expected him to kill anyone left alive in Saul’s family.

Instead, David seeks out Mephibosheth and longs to show him kindness.

And, crippled as he was, Jonathan’s son couldn’t even get to the king’s table on his own.

He would have to be carried.

Kelly Minter writes,

I believe we all deeply long to be invited ‘to the table.’ It represents all things that speak belonging, acceptance, and the honor of being chosen. It is a picture of intimacy, conversation, nourishment, and safety (Ruth, p. 76).

You and I, as unbelievable as it may seem, are invited to a table of abundance.

Revelation 19:9 says:

Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb (ESV).

How blessed indeed are we as believers to receive this invitation?  Christ Himself spreads out a feast and asks us to come to the table.

It’s an invitation we don’t deserve, not on our own merit or strength anyway.

We’re like Ruth—foreigners.  We’re the lowly and the poor.  We’re the outcasts and the outsiders.

Like Mephibosheth, we’re crippled and broken and we can’t even make it to the table all on our own.

We need Jesus.

He covers us with His righteousness.  He dresses us in the pure robes of His forgiveness.

And, He bids us come and eat.

“Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory” (Revelation 19:7 ESV). 

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 Early Riser Who Isn’t a Morning Person

psalm 30-5My son is an early riser who really isn’t a morning person.

That means most days, he wakes up at the first hint of light and then grumps about it for the next hour.

Most of my kids have gone through this phase of waking mom up too early.  Over time and with training, most of them grew out of it.

Although, I do have one daughter who is simply a morning person.  She can bounce out of bed far too early and jump all over the house cheerfully with a running monologue about everything she wants to do that day—all while I’m laying back down on the couch to avoid fully waking up.

She’s always been like that.

Not my son.

The other day, it was the worst ever.  He woke up.  He woke me up.

Then, he yelled about everything he asked for.  Cereal.  Drink.  Blanket.  Curious George, Mickey Mouse or Thomas the Tank Engine.

He asked.  I gave.  He screamed.

Finally, I lifted that tiny bundle of morning-angst right up, set him into his crib and told him we needed a restart.  We’d try again in a few minutes.

Sure enough, about five minutes later, I once again greeted his sweet face with a “good morning” and a fresh start.

Bless his heart, that boy had started the day determined to be in a funk.  But a ‘restart’ button on the morning was what he really needed.

Maybe we do, too, sometimes.

Our emotions, they can overwhelm and overpower us.

And, while God created us with these feelings to be indicators of how we’re doing as we navigate the big wide world of life, He didn’t mean for those feelings to trample us underfoot.

Still, there are days that instead of bossing our feelings around, we feed those little monsters until they’re towering beasts.

We feel sadness, and we feed the sadness, giving into melancholy, reading sadness, listening to sadness, watching sadness, talking about sadness.

We feel anger, so we feed the anger.  We ‘vent’ and rage, we call our friends and get riled up all over again, we make speeches and post on Facebook.

In her book Wherever the River Runs, Kelly Minter writes:

“A high school student recently told me that she actually enjoys being sad, writing in her diary for hours about how she and her boyfriend continually break up and get back together.  She was like a melancholy teenage moth admitting her attraction to the sparkly light of drama.  I looked at her and as lovingly as possible said, ‘You’ll get over that’”

I remember those days.  Somehow when you’re a teenager, melancholy feels good because that’s when you know you write the best poetry.

But here we are all grown up and mature and I haven’t always truthfully gotten over that.

Some days, I let my feelings run crazy and pull me right along with them.

In the book of Ruth, we meet a woman named Naomi who endured great tragedy.  If anyone had the right to feel despair or sadness or deep grief, it’s her after losing her husband and two sons while living in a foreign land.

Yet, Naomi had a choice:  Give In or Find New Strength.

After she trekked back home to Bethlehem, she made a speech to her old friends:

“Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.21 I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?” (Ruth 1:20-21 ESV). 

Her sorrow engulfed her whole identity.  She couldn’t be Naomi any more.  Now, she was Mara–“bitter.”

She was giving in.

She spills out the intensity of how it feels like God has abandoned you—The Almighty…The Lord…has done this to me, has dealt bitterly with me, has brought me back empty, has testified against me, has brought calamity upon me.

Oh, how so many of us have felt this also, that somehow–even though we know it isn’t true–it feels as though God has abandoned us or, even worse, set Himself against us.

In her Bible study, Ruth, Kelly Minter writes:

“Although there will be weeping in this life, the direction in which we weep is what truly matters” and  “What we do while we’re weeping makes the difference” (p. 22 and p. 45).

She calls it “weeping forward.”

It’s not staying stuck.  It’s not allowing grief to subsume us.

It’s choosing to get up each new day and confess all that sorrow to God, not faking or pretending everything’s great, but choosing this:  Choosing to overcome.

Choosing fresh starts and new mercies.

Choosing to keep going.

Choosing, if we have to, to weep forward.

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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 © 2015 Heather King

The miracles that don’t look like miracles

I heard the sad news that the man in this story passed away this morning.  I’m remembering him today just as he shared a sweet memory of his own mom and I’m praying for his family….

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

Years ago, the sweet man who led our church choir leaned back in his stool at the front of the music room.  He told us in a slow southern drawl what he remembered about his mother.

On the dark and stormy nights of his childhood, when the thunder raged and lightning struck close enough to illuminate his room, he would awaken to find his mom sitting in a chair at the foot of his bed.  She sat with him through the storms, praying over him, even while he continued to sleep.

That’s what he remembered about her: her presence in the stormy nights.

Last night, I supervised the brushing of teeth and the donning of pajamas, packing lunches and backpacks, and laying out clothes for the new day.  We read bedtime stories.  We prayed as a family.

This morning, I poured cereal and I buttered toast.  I placed ice packs in the lunches and zipped up the backpacks.

I helped with shoes and socks, combed hair, and reminded my daughters (too many times) to brush their teeth and to do it well because they don’t want cavities or bad breath and, by the way, we’re going to the dentist next week.

I checked the weather and then I held out jackets for each girl.  I broke up a fight and gave a crying daughter a hug, calmed her down, and then placed the two sisters on a school bus.Photo by Viktor Hanacek at PicJumbo

The day was like every day.

I don’t remember these childhood moments, not my mom tying my shoes or helping me put on my jacket, supervising bath time or pulling my hair into pigtails.

But she did them.  My life is filled with years and years of everyday acts of love I don’t remember.

Usually these acts of love remain unnoticed and undervalued . . . unless they’re missing.  Those children who aren’t fed well, bathed, read to, hugged, kept safe, and tucked into their own cozy beds at night feel the lack.

What will my kids remember about this time with me? It’s not likely they’ll remember the moments of jackets and breakfasts and backpacks.

But they might remember the special times, like waking on a stormy night to see mom by the bed.

And I wonder, what do I remember about God, my Father?  Usually, it’s the stormy times when I awaken in fear only to find His presence.  It’s the times He’s kept me safe and delivered me from danger.

Yet, we so often overlook the miracles of everyday grace, the simplest signs of His affection and the fact that He cares for our needs and yes, sometimes even our desires.

When we always look for the glorious miracle, the immediate and the extraordinary, we miss thanking God for the gradual, the expected, and the small.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “A slow miracle is no easier to perform than an instant one.”

We revel in the answers to prayer that come fast. The ones that don’t require interminable waiting and inconvenient patience.

We pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” and then miss the miracle of everyday provision.cslewismiracle

In the book of Nehemiah, the exiles who returned to Jerusalem skipped sleep, fended off enemies, prayed, and labored with a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other.  They hefted bricks until the walls of Jerusalem were complete, all in just 52 days.  It was a miracle.  Even their enemies knew that:

When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God (Nehemiah 6:16).

How easy it would be to overlook the miracle, though, because it didn’t look miraculous.

As Kelly Minter writes in Nehemiah: A Heart That Can Break:

“It’s worth noting that so far we’ve read nothing of angels, burning bushes, or talking donkeys.  Instead, we’ve seen God use what we might consider ordinary to bring about extraordinary transformation: prayer, repentance, willingness, hard work, sacrifice, humility, faith.  Though miraculous displays of God’s power are to be desired and cherished, I’m equally impressed with God speaking silently to Nehemiah’s heart in the most ‘normal’ of circumstances.  Be encouraged that the common, everyday realities are ideal environments for God to put something in our hearts to do” (Minter 116).

So we thank Him for the daily bread, for forgiveness, for mercies made new every morning, for unceasing faithfulness, and His goodness (Lamentations 3:23-26).  We thank Him for the quiet and the everyday and His presence.

It may not be showy and ostentatious.  Still, it’s love.  That’s worth remembering.

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

Soul-Suffocating: When Good Things Become Bad Things

Most of the children in our town don’t watch the Christmas parade from the sidewalk.  They are proud participants in the parade itself.  Almost every child ends up on a float of some kind, for church or school, daycare, ballet, karate, Scouts, band, or chorus.

It’s the moms, dads and grandparents who wave from the sidelines.

Two years ago, my oldest daughter rode all the way down the Main Street of our town, pulled behind Cinderella’s carriage.  Mostly her view of the parade itself was limited to either the folks lining the street or the few floats before and behind her in the line that she could see.

It was enough.

After we had climbed into the car and turned the heat on full blast to thaw the chill we felt deep in our spines and down through our toes, she asked a question that had apparently been on her mind during the whole parade route.

“Mom, there were Boy Scouts in the parade, right?”

“Yup.”

“So….does that mean there are GIRL Scouts.”

I sucked in my breath.  “Yes, absolutely there are Girl Scouts and yes, they are totally wonderful and great and fun.  But you can’t do everything, my love.  Some things we have to let go.”

Even good things can become bad things.  Like when your five-year-old child wants to do ballet, piano, Awana, theater, Girl Scouts, gymnastics, horse-riding and anything and everything else represented by a float in our town’s Christmas parade.

We’re soul-suffocators, too, cramming so much into our lives we don’t have room to breathe.

And it’s not just time.  It’s things, and media, and noise, and friendships and just about everything that’s not necessarily bad, but which ultimately crowds out room for Jesus in the heart that’s supposedly His cozy and welcoming home.

I’ve grown sadly familiar with the phrase, “Everybody else ….” or “My friend has…” and “The other girls at school watch this TV show…”

Sometimes, I’m not just listening to this mantra, I’m the one delivering the whiny sermon to God.

“If others can have this, couldn’t I?”  “If she can do this, it’s okay for me, too, right?”

We’re sold by the advertisers and the infomercials and wooed by the parade of life that incessantly marches past good causes and activities and projects and the latest and greatest in home kitchen gadgetry.

And sometimes God asks us to lay it down.

These aren’t “Issacs,” we’re talking about, the areas of radical obedience that require us to trust and exercise extreme faith.

As Kelly Minter writes in her book, No Other gods: Confronting Our Modern Day Idols, “before Abraham could ever offer up the child born of the miraculous, he first had to offer up the child born of his flesh” (p. 128).

Obedience to God begins with Ishmael.

Long before Abraham’s heart-wrenching journey to the mountain where he lifted his knife over his beloved son Isaac, Abraham had to let his other son go: Ishmael—the baby boy of Abraham and the maidservant Hagar.  For 13 years, Ishmael had been Abraham’s only child and while it turned out that he wasn’t the heir of promise, still he was loved.

And when Sarah demanded that her maidservant Hagar and the teenage boy, Ishmael, be thrown out into the wilderness, Abraham begged God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!” (Genesis 17:20).

Our prayers echo his at times.  “If only you’d bless this, God!”  “If only this would be okay with you.  Isn’t this great and good and wonderful and won’t you bless it?”

We ask God to bless or at least tolerate our “Ishmaels,” those good things that aren’t holy things or the extras and objects of our affection that have never been part of God’s plan or design for us, but that we love and hold on to so very tightly.

Or maybe our Ishmael is the way we’ve tried to force God’s promises into being, impatiently rushing ahead of God’s timing and doing things our own way.

Kelly Minter reminds us, “He has grace on our Ishmaels, and yet he is unwilling to allow them to ever take the place of Isaac.  No, what is born of flesh can never substitute for what is born of the Spirit” (p. 127).

That’s no less a step of obedience than the radical sacrifice of Isaac.  It’s the letting go of Ishmael.

It’s submitting to Him our habits, our committees, our involvement, our activities, our parenting, our expectations for our kids, our relationships, our spending, our eating, our five-year-plan for our lives, our ministry, and the way we are pursuing His call.  Even if it’s good or right for others, even if it seems necessary or like it will help us reach his promises faster, even if we love it…we let it go if He asks.

We’re holding out for God’s best here; not missing out on the promise because we’re distracted and satiated, tired out, filled up, and content with everything else–everything less.

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

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Attack of the Mutant Christmas Lists

Their Christmas lists keep growing.

I thought we had it all settled.  In fact, being the slightly neurotic Type-A mom that I am, I turned my daughters’ wish lists into a color-coordinated spreadsheet in Excel that tracks what the girls want, how that corresponds to what her sisters are getting, and what store has the best prices for said item.

Then I’ve established a four-month shopping program charting which presents I can afford to buy during each of the months until Christmas.

Believe it or not, I love this.  I enjoy gift-giving, especially to my children.  I don’t just jot their lists down, I listen to their interests and likes and spontaneous desires for months.  In fact, I begin writing down possible gift ideas on my day planner in June.

Yes, June.

And I mentally categorize their verbal requests into:

A: That’s a great idea!  I wonder where I can get that?
B:  Hmm. . . I’ll consider this one, but I may need to change my plans for other gifts.
C. Maybe not for Christmas; maybe for a birthday.
D. Ain’t gonna happen, honey.

That last category is for all those gifts that cost more than anything else we own in our home or toys that will likely break after the first use or sit dusty and forlorn on the shelves the week after Christmas.  It’s for duplicates of things they already have (how many Pillow Pets does a child need?) and for gifts that just seem downright silly to me.

But still the requests come in.  Like video games and Nintendo DS systems and the iPod touches and Kindles that apparently every other first and second grader in our town owns.

Thanks to birthday parties, friends, and the ever-constant barrage of commercials, my children have mutant Christmas lists.

While it seems so childishly foolish to long for novelty slippers or a new video game, don’t we often want what this world offers?

Perhaps it’s material things that constitute our wish list or physical beauty or instant gratification.

Or maybe our heart’s desires are truly Godly things, but we want them on our terms, under our control, in our timing . . . ultimately looking for fulfillment in them rather than God alone.

…Like ministering because we’re dependent on praise and attention.  Or working and serving because we’re addicted to success and accomplishments..

Or the ever-alluring need to be in Control.

And the oh-so-tempting rush of feeling needed and useful.

These aren’t sticks and stones idols that sit on the shelves of our hearts, so obvious and easily tossed out with the garbage.

No, Tim Keller writes that, put simply, idolatry is “taking a good thing and making it an ultimate thing.”

So even the best, most honorable desires of our heart might turn out to be idols leading us astray—all because we’re dependent on ministry for our value or friendships for our worth or anything other than God alone for our identity and hope.

Kelly Minter writes, “It is so essential that the only true and wise God be exalted, not only above all religious gods, but over all the things we put in place of Him” (No Other gods: Confronting Our Modern Day Idols).

But sometimes we just don’t know what’s lurking in these hearts of ours, not until God takes an idol away or asks us to hand it over.  It’s then we start feeling the pangs of withdrawal and realize just how addicted we really were.

Like when He tells us a busyness addict to rest.
Or a success addict to step down.
Or an approval addict to handle criticism.
Or a relationship addict to walk alone for a time.
Or a control addict to strap in for a wild ride of His design and not their own.

If we were Abraham, a wealthy landowner with status and connections, and God told us to leave and go, would we?

And if we went, would we go willingly and cheerfully, or would we whine and complain and create wish lists along the way to refill the voids?

Abraham not only trusted God and obeyed, but he managed to keep his eyes set on eternal things.  He didn’t look for fulfillment here and now or even in good things that just weren’t God things.

Scripture tells us:

“For he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.  For he was looking forward to the city with foundations whose architect and builder is God”  (Heb 11:9-10).

What tent is God asking you to dwell in?  What has He asked you to lay aside?

Set your eyes on eternity.  Hand over the keys to your house, carry your tent on your back, and trust God to plan and build a city with a permanent home for you there.  He is, after all, all we need.

Check out these great resources all about this:

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

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Packing a Bag for the Homeless

He shuffled over to the line of women waiting to enter the arena for the first night of Women of Faith in Washington, DC.

He asked us for food.  I rifled through my bag because I had fully intended to pack snacks for just such an occasion.

I had nothing.

He asked for money.  I had none to give.homelessbag

He walked away.

I was angry at myself, frustrated that I had failed to prepare for compassion and service.  I had good intentions and no follow-through.

Hadn’t I just read a book I had discovered on the shelves of our church library called Under the Overpass: A Journey of Faith on the Streets of America?

A young college student chronicled the six months he and a friend lived as homeless men on the streets of America’s cities.  They played their guitars to earn money for food and went days without a single meal and weeks without a shower.  They had no access to running water or even a bathroom at night.  People avoided them and glared at them and they felt shame and knew they were unwanted.

Hadn’t I just finished Kelly Minter’s study, Nehemiah: A Heart That Can Break and been reminded continually that “the Lord always has the poor on His mind, often paired with the widow, alien, and fatherless in Scripture’s pages”?  She wrote that “tangibly involving ourselves for the sake of justice is a biblical command” (p. 69).

After all, Isaiah 1:17 says:

Learn to do right; seek justice.
    Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
    plead the case of the widow.

It can’t get much clearer than that.

And before I studied Nehemiah, hadn’t I completed Beth Moore’s study: James: Mercy Triumphs? If ever there was a Biblical writer who echoed Christ’s heart for the poor and oppressed it was his half-brother James.

James asked:

Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? (James 2:15-16).

James summed our faith up this way:

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world (James 1:27).

God cares passionately about the poor, the homeless, the oppressed, the overlooked, the widow, the orphan, the lost and the lonely.

He expects us to do the same.

I knew it.  I had read about it in book after book, study after study all year long.  I meant to bring food for the homeless to the streets of Washington, DC .

I forgot.

So the homeless man in faded clothes and a dusty face shuffled past me to another woman in line and another.

The day after I arrived home, I took my oldest daughter to the dollar store and we tossed soap and wash cloths into the cart.  We grabbed a box of small bottled waters, two packs of peanut butter crackers, and some canned peaches.

We packed our bags for a family vacation.  Then I packed some bags for the homeless.  I didn’t know if anyone else would shuffle over to me and ask for food, but I wanted to be ready.

I carried those Ziplock bags in a backpack all through our family vacation and it seemed like unnecessary weight.  We didn’t hand out a single one.

Until we were driving home, that is.  We stopped at a traffic light and I was busy thinking about the end of our vacation and the drive home and what happens next.  My husband saw the man with the sign:  “Homeless.  Please help.”

He grabbed one of our bags, motioned the man over and handed it out through the window.

The best part is that I now have a tangible reminder to pray for one particular man in need.

I have a lot to learn still.  My prayer is that God will open my eyes (clearly I need His vision) and prod my heart to prepare for ministry to “the least of these.”

Do you have ideas on how to minister to the poor and needy?

What I Want to Do Differently Next Time:

I had this brainstorm for the bags for the homeless and put it together based on ideas we picked up at the dollar store.  Then, I read a book that week called Cleaning House about a mom who lives in Dallas and encounters the homeless regularly while driving her kids around town.  She makes up bags of care items for the homeless, too!  I felt so excited that we had the same idea.

I loved some of the other items she adds, though.  Based on her thoughts and some of the ideas in the book Under the Overpass, my new care packages would look like this:

  • Wash cloth
  • Bar of Soap
  • Peanut Butter Crackers
  • Bottled Water
  • Other nonperishable food item
  • $5 gift card to a place like Subway, Wendy’s, McDonald’s or even an area grocery store
  • Pocket Bible or maybe a personal note with a Scripture verse
  • Information on a local homeless ministry

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

Rigging Candy Land

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
   don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
   he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all
(Proverbs 3:5-6 MSG).

When my kids were younger, I used to rig the Candy Land cards.

Not so they could win, you understand, because I don’t believe in just letting a child win at games.

I simply hated the cruelty of the setback.  The thing about Candy Land is that you could be two rainbow-colored squares away from the magic candy castle and then draw the card for the Gingerbread Man.

At first, this seems harmless enough.  Who doesn’t want the Gingerbread Man?  Then you realize that it’s just evil fate and lessons in the futility of life sugar-coated and handed to your three-year-old child.

That’s because the Gingerbread Man is all the way back at the beginning of the game.

So, you have to watch this sweetly innocent toddler who was an inch away from cheering in victory move her red Candy Land piece all the way back to a position of certain defeat.

Sometimes life seems just as sadly confusing with unexpected twists and turns and a few disappointments and setbacks.

Yet, surely these are lessons best learned when you’re a little older and wiser?

My solution was simple.  As I shuffled the cards before setting up the game, I made sure the dreaded Gingerbread Man and the peppermint stick guy and sometimes even the gumdrop were in the front of the stack.

Thus, anyone who drew one of those cards would never have to fall back more than a few squares.

Sometimes I wish God would rig the cards every once in a while so life never involved steps backwards or feeling stuck in place (on something less soothingly delicious as a licorice stick).

While He’s at it, wouldn’t it be nice if He gave the game board a big yank and straightened the path?  No more zigzags across the board.  Geometry tells us the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  How about a straight line, God?

Yes, it’s true, sometimes the directions God takes us and the interruptions, setbacks, and seemingly pointless diversions we experience just don’t make sense.

In her book Nehemiah: A Heart that Can Break, Kelly Minter shared: “…I have a friend who regularly says to me, ‘Lean not Gal!’  As in, ‘Lean not on your own understanding, but all your ways acknowledge Him, ‘Gal!'” (p. 97).

I love this.  I certainly have the tendency to lean on my own understanding and raise a ruckus of discontentment when God leads me in unexpected directions.

Jonah also needed someone to tell him, “Lean not, Guy!” when he, a highly successful, well-respected prophet of encouragement to God’s holy people got God’s disturbing message: Go preach repentance to an enemy nation that has persecuted and killed your neighbors and family friends.

The disciples similarly needed a “lean not” reminder when Jesus told them they were going up to Jerusalem where He would be persecuted, imprisoned and crucified.

In the same way, Paul challenged his friends and followers to “lean not” when he traveled to Jerusalem, despite being warned that he would be placed in chains and taken captive there (Acts 21).

Jonah, the famous runaway, tried to avoid the path that didn’t make sense.

What if he had succeeded? Nineveh would have missed out on experiencing what “many historians cite …as the greatest revival in human history” (Priscilla Shirer, Jonah, p. 114).

In fact:

When Jonah chose to walk in obedience to the word of the Lord, the result was a harvest of amazing fruit he’d probably never seen coming.  Not just one community in the city or even a handful of the city’s important people believed in God.  Every citizen of Nineveh, from the greatest to the least, immediately believed.  Conviction was so complete that even the animals were made to participate in the government-mandated fast.  ‘Even the great Apostle Paul never experienced anything comparable to what Jonah saw.  Paul never saw an entire city turn to God'” (Shirer, p. 118-119).

Yes, and without Jesus’ journey to the cross, we would not have the resurrection or a plan for salvation.

And if Paul chose the easier road away from Jerusalem, he would never have preached about Christ in Rome—even to Caesar himself (Acts 28).

It’s frightening not to know exactly where we’re going.  It’s terrifying not to know what will happen when we get there.

It’s disappointing when God asks you:
to step aside
to stop
to walk away
to turn around
to go back
to take a break
to cease activity
and to put aside our own plans and visions and understanding of how this crazy life should work out and make sense.

Yet, even when we spend some time standing still or making the disheartening trip apparently backwards, we can trust that God has a plan—a better plan (yes, even better than the magical candy castle!) and maybe a surprising plan (to us, not to Him)—as long as we obey.

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

One Week Without a Voice: Lesson Two

Eight days after I woke up squeaking and sputtering air instead of greeting the start of a new day with my normal cheerful voice . . . (okay, maybe I don’t wake up like Cinderella, singing to birds with a smile ever morning) . . . but still, eight days after I woke up and couldn’t talk, I still sound like an alien in my own body.

My voice scratches a bit and I’ve taken a step down from a normal alto range into a definitive tenor.

Still, it’s an improvement.  I can sit and hold a conversation with friends.  I read about ten books to my toddler this morning while she sat on the potty.  I can call out to my older girls reminders to “Be nice.  Don’t be unkind.  Stop being nasty to each other.  If you can’t get along, I’m going to pack up your game so you can’t play.”

These are important and necessary skills for me, a busy wife and mom and friend.  Today, I’m thankful for the voice I have, scratchy and low as it is, because the essential truth is I’m no longer voice-less.

And there are others who never feel that freedom.  Some people never seem to gain a voice, not after years of anguished pleas.  Not after infant’s tears in a forlorn and overlooked makeshift bed, crying out to an unresponsive mama or parents that simply aren’t there.

Living one week without a voice reminded me that there are some people who are perpetually voiceless.  No amount of cough drops, hot tea with lemon and honey, or throat spray is going to tune the world into the sound of their need.

Our God, though, is a hearer of silenced cries.  When Bartimaeus, a blind beggar sitting hopeless by a roadside, yelled out to Jesus as he passed by, the crowd tried to hush him up.    “They rebuked him, telling him to be silent” (Mark 10:47).

What could Jesus care for a blind beggar?  Why stop and heal someone so clearly overlooked by every . . . other . . . person.

Refusing to be silenced, though, Bartimaeus screamed louder and Jesus stopped the mob of fawning followers so he could listen to a man in need.

“What do you want me to do for you?”   That’s all Jesus asked.  That’s all he needed to ask in order to assure a blind beggar that finally someone had heard his cry for help.  Bartimaeus, voiceless no longer, presented his clear and simple request: “Rabbi, let me recover my sight” (Mark 10:51)

More than just a miracle of sight for a blind man occurred there that day.  It was the miracle of God hearing the pleas of a voiceless one amidst a noisy crowd.

In the same way, when a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years ducked her head in shameful desperation and slipped into the crowd surrounding Jesus, she was a voiceless one.  Her society and culture, the laws of her faith, declared her unclean.  Unfit for human contact.  Unable to live among her people.  Cut off from public worship.

In faith, she ran her hand along the hem of Jesus’ robe, trusting that the tiniest touch could heal her.

Jesus could have let her slip away from the crowd unnoticed.  No need for her to risk discovery in a mob who thought her very presence would taint them and stain their purity.

But he didn’t.  Jesus gave voice to the voiceless.  He asked, “Who touched me” and waited for her to speak up, to declare her presence and give testimony.  It was as if he was telling her, “You haven’t just received physical healing.  You are welcome in this place.  These people need to hear what you have to say.  No more sneaking into a crowd and then slipping out the back.”

Even she recognized the impact of Jesus’ question, realizing “that she was not hidden” (Luke 8:47).  No, not hidden anymore.  Instead, “trembling, and falling down before him (she) declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him”

It was likely her first act of public worship and her first unashamed speech in 12 years.

Don’t you love this about our Lord?  That He hears when no one else will hear?  That His passion and heart are for the neediest and weakest among us?  That He’s given us a voice and He listens when we call for Him?

This is His character.
More than that, this is supposed to be the character of his people.

In the book of Nehemiah, this cup-bearer to a foreign King, a man with responsibility and high position, asked his brother for reports about his homeland and the people who had returned to Jerusalem.

Kelly Minter in Nehemiah: A Heart That Can Break notes this about Nehemiah’s character:  “He wanted to know.  Sometimes I shield myself from finding out what’s really going on with people for fear I’ll be held responsible.  Because with information often comes responsibility; if we know, we might be required to do something”(p. 13).

We may want to remain blind and deaf to need, but Nehemiah wanted to know.  And when he heard about the state of his people, he responded with prayer and action.

All because he served a God who hears and cares about those with no voice.  We serve that same God—do we hear and care?

You can read more devotionals on this topic here:

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

Copyright © 2012 Heather King


Weekend Walk, 05/19/2012—Go and Do Video Response!!

Sometimes you just have to do something different.

Like today.  Normally during our weekend posts I share with you a verse for the week and a weekend rerun, but I have some really exciting news and items to share with you, so I just couldn’t do the same old-same old this weekend!

Go and Do Video Response:

Not long ago, I posted a review of a challenging book by Jay Milbrandt called Go and Do: Daring to Change the World One Story at a TimeI hope you’ll read my whole review here since the book gave me a lot to think about and it may be something to add to your summer reading list.

Today, I received an email saying that the author was willing to answer any questions I and other reviewers might have about the book.

I felt a little crazy, but I typed up my question and hit the submit button on my email program before I could change my mind. I asked him how people like me, young moms on a tight budget who can’t hop a plane to Thailand, can respond to his challenge to “go and do.”

Within a few hours, I received an email back with a link to a video Jay Milbrandt had made in response to my question.

Wow!  Is there anything else to say?  How amazing that this author and the director of Pepperdine University’s Global Justice Program took time out of his busy schedule to answer my question!

You can click here or click on the video image on the blog to hear Milbrandt’s thoughtful and considerate response and if you do read my whole review, you’ll see his written comment to my post.

Summer Bible Study:

Last summer, we ran an online Bible study here at the blog and I loved it!  I’ve had several requests for another online study, but this year my small group is reading through the Bible together.  I don’t want to ask them to take a break from that in order to do a different study in this space.

However, I have a really exciting opportunity to share with you!  I’ve been serving as a small group leader for an online Bible study over at Women’s Bible Cafe and enjoying the opportunity to study God’s Word with women from around the world who may never meet face to face this side of heaven.

The Women’s Bible Cafe folks have just announced that they’ll be starting a summer study on June 26th of Kelly Minter’s book Nehemiah: A Heart That Can Break.  It gets even better . . . Beth Moore kicked all this off by deciding to run an online study this summer of this very same book on her blog.

Do you know what that means?  If you participate in this study at Women’s Bible Cafe, you could be one of several thousand women all studying the very same book of the Bible at the very same time.  Now that’s a powerful way to study Scripture!

If you’d like to participate, you need to get a copy of the book (early because they sell out quickly when there are mass online studies) and head on over to the Women’s Bible Cafe page to register.  They’ll assign you a small group when the study begins and you’ll be on your way to spending a summer with Nehemiah.

Making a List and Checking It Twice:

Have you checked out my Bookshelf recently on the blog?  It’s up to date with some of the books, studies, devotionals and prayer guides I’ve been reading and thinking about recently.  Not only that, but I’ve posted 18 book reviews that could help you make some of your summer reading selections.

I’m making my own summer reading list, but before I make any plans I’d like to hear from you.  What are your best book recommendations?  I can’t wait to read them myself!  I’ll be collecting ideas from now until the end of May and then I’ll try to share the final list of ideas with everyone.

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

Broken Crayons And Other Things That Drive Me Crazy

Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved!”
(Psalm 80:3, ESV).

Things that drive me crazy:

Procrastination, disorganization, messing with “the plan” and the schedule, slow pokes, Play Doh colors all mixed together, shoes and jackets dropped in the middle of the kitchen floor, crowds, wet towels left on the sink and toothpaste stuck to the bathroom walls, markers with no tops.

Oh, and something else, too: Broken crayons. Even worse, crayons with the paper torn off. I mean, if you rip the paper off, the crayons are more susceptible to breaking. Plus, it’s difficult to tell whether you are holding blue, purple or black in your hand.

It’s enough to give a mom fits.

When my kindergartener told me that Show & Tell this week needed to be something recycled or reused, we started brainstorming.  There was the orange juice carton we turned into a birdfeeder.  The paper towel roll my oldest daughter made into Snow White.  The Popsicle stick my middle girl turned into a pig.  The Mason jar painted over and made into a candle holder.

Or we could find something to do with those pesky broken and naked crayons that drive me so crazy.

Jackpot!

I spent this morning collecting the remnants of Crayola.  Once beautiful, bright, pointy crayons fresh from the box—now broken, bespeckled, faded, and unwrapped.

We filled a tray of heart-shaped silicone with the jumble of brokenness, melted the wax, cooled it and then popped out beautiful new rainbow heart crayons.

We made something fun, colorful, and unique out of the old, broken, and worn out.

God’s plan for restoring us in life is so often like melting down broken wax and transforming it into a uniquely colorful treasure with a beauty all its own.

We pray for restoration, hope for it, long for it with desperate hearts.  We need the fixing, mending, healing power of God in our relationships, in our worship, in our churches, in our sick and hurting bodies, in our grief, in our finances, and more.

David needed it emotionally and knew that the Lord His Shepherd, “restores my soul” (Psalm 23:3).  Later, He needed spiritual restoration after he committed adultery and murderer, as he prayed, “Restore to me the joy of my salvation” (Psalm 51:12).

What we usually long for in the midst of brokenness is full-circle restoration.  We want what we once had, what Satan took from us, or what we’ve lost along our journey.

That’s what Israel prayed for when they were beseiged, starved, and taken captive:  “Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old” (Lamentations 5:21 ESV).

Give us back the good old days!

And it seemed like that’s exactly what God did.  When Nehemiah returned to rebuild the ruins of the Jerusalem walls, he began at the Valley Gate (Nehemiah 2:13).  Then, 52 days later, they finished the job and celebrated with choirs, corporate praise, rededication, and a procession that marched out through the gates they had rebuilt, starting with what scholars believe was the Valley Gate.

In Nehemiah: A Heart That Can Break, Kelly Minter writes: “If God began Nehemiah’s journey at the broken Valley Gate and completed it at a restored one, we have reason to hope He will work with the same restorative power in our lives” (p. 151).

They had, after all, come full circle.  This surely renews our hope.

And yet, this wasn’t exactly the same as what they had lost, and that’s also reason to rejoice!  These were rebuilt walls, walls with a testimony.  They showed God’s faithfulness to His people, bringing them back from captivity and helping them rebuild their land.

The rebuilt walls in our lives are also a testimony of God’s faithful lovingkindness and mercy.  They can’t possibly be misunderstood or misinterpreted as walls pounded into place by our own ability and strength.

They are all about how God brought us back and helped us stand.

The best thing about God’s restoration is that He often does more than we expect.  We want the same as the good old days.  Many times, however, He gives us more than we had before or even something better.

He did this for Job, giving him “twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10).

He does this for us, as Peter tells us:

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10, ESV).

He doesn’t just give us back the pieced-together remnants of our past; He restores us in a way that makes us stronger, and He does it Himself, stitching us back together with His own patient hand.

God doesn’t give up on the broken crayons in our lives or toss away those of us who’ve come unpeeled.  He may melt us down and it may hurt, but He makes us new, beautiful, different, stronger, unique—restored for His glory and with a story to tell of His goodness.

Want to transform your broken crayons into something fun and new?  There are some great “recipes” online, including this one here.

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I don’t just have things that drive me crazy.  Things can make me happy, too!  Like:

Family time, baking with my girls, heartfelt worship, chocolate, hot tea with sugar, time with God at my kitchen table, words that are fun to say, holding my husband’s hand, triple word tiles in Scrabble, honeysuckle candles, free concerts on the beach in the summer time, my daughters giggling, the smell of fireplaces burning in autumn air, pumpkins, my small group, crossword puzzles, the perfect coupon, Masterpiece Classic and Masterpiece Mystery, brand new pointy crayons, fresh Play Doh, the Beatles, comfy white socks, Dickens and Shakespeare, British comedies, when the lights dim and the play starts, listening to my daughters read, a blank computer screen and the clicking of the keys as I fill it up with words.

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