Muffin Mission: Complete

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

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

The thing is: my kids love muffins.

Love them.

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

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

Mom needs a taste, too, of course.

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

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

We are doing this because we love muffins.hosea6

Well, more importantly, we love our teachers.

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

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

But I read this today:

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

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

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

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

Be careful to the love the Lord.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like Hosea wrote:

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

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

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

As Chris Tiegreen says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

More than a Lucky Charm

Normally, I hear her sprint across the house around 3 or so in the morning, and I open my eyes into the darkness and ask my daughter, “What do you need, baby?”

Most nights, it’s something to drink.  Or perhaps her blanket had fallen off the bed or somehow ended up scrunched up and tangled in a mesh of other blankets in the night.  So, she needs me to embark on a kind of “Blanket Recovery Mission.”

I plod along after her into the darkness, filling the cup, finding the blanket, and tucking her back into bed.

But last night she dashed across the house in the darkness and climbed right up into my arms.  When I asked her what she needed, her eyes flickered open for the briefest moment.

She whispered, “I need Mom” and then fell asleep.

My little one needed me for me, not for what I could do or provide, find or fill, but for my presence and love and the safety of that relationship.

It’s so hard to say when it’s easiest to start taking our relationship with Mighty God for granted.

Perhaps it’s when times are hardest and our conversations with Him can become an endless litany of our need and pleas for His help and intervention.  We too often want Him only for what He can do for us.

We need that job, that financial deliverance, that health, that relationship, that restoration, that guidance, that intervention, that advocacy, that victory.  Maybe we even search the Scriptures filtering out everything that doesn’t seem to fit or speak to our particular circumstance or situation.

Or perhaps we value this time with Him the least when everything is going well and we have our needs taken care of, so we have very little to say to Him besides an occasional, “thanks, God.”

Yet, while God always invites us to bring our requests and needs to His feet, surely the desire of His God-heart isn’t that we only ever ask for the drink of water or the blanket in the middle of the night.

He wants us to sit at His feet and say, “I need You, God.”482075_10151336449620893_1263122976_n

I need Your provision, yes.  Your strength.  Your help and wisdom.  All those things.

But even beyond anything You can do for me….I simply need You.  “I need Thee every hour…every hour I need Thee.”

And this is the simple truth of this life: That we need Him like breath and food and water, the very life-sources of this physical body.

Perhaps you forget this like I do at times:  Taking Him for granted….forgetting my dependency and trying to act all foolishly independent.

Like the Israelites in 1 Samuel 4, sometimes we treat God as little more than a good-luck charm that we slip out of our pocket on test days for a little extra help and good fortune.

God had promised to be with His people, deliver them, protect them from their enemies, and provide them with abundant harvests and a life of plenty…IF they obeyed Him and stayed faithful to Him.

They, of course, had wandered and strayed, disobeyed and worshiped other gods.

But when they faced a vast army of enemy Philistines, Israel was quick with a solution:

Then they said, “Let’s bring the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord from Shiloh. If we carry it into battle with us, it will save us from our enemies.” (1 Samuel 4:3b NLT).

They didn’t revere the Ark of the Covenant as the earthy dwelling place of God’s glory and they didn’t begin by repenting of all the sin that had driven them to this place of near-defeat.

To them, it was a rabbit’s foot, a pair of lucky socks, a token or totem, no different than the idols of rocks and stone carried around by the enemy.  So, they decided to drag the Ark out and carry it into battle, assuming that God would take it from there, carry the day, and fight on their behalf.

Even the Philistines revered God more in that moment.  They were terrified by news of the Ark’s arrival, knowing full well that if the One True God decided to fight that day, they had no chance of defeating the rag-tag Israelites.  The enemy knew of this God by His reputation–the Deliverer from Egypt and the God of the Plagues.

Yet, God, doesn’t allow Himself to be used and abused like that—not then, not now.  The Israelites lost the battle and the Philistines carried off the Ark like a war-prize, not because God couldn’t defend His people.  Because His people forgot that they needed Him, all the time, every day.

They forgot.

Today we remember to pray: God, I need You and You alone, not for any thing, but for who You are.  You are all I need.

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 © 2013 Heather King

Have Mess, Need Mercy

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness”
Lamentations 3:21, 22

We all have mess.  I surely do.

When I was a young girl, my mom handed me the book, Old Yeller, and told me, “you’re going to cry when you read this.”

I didn’t.  It was a spiteful hardness, the determination that no matter how intensely sad the story became, I wouldn’t cry simply because she said I would.

This hasn’t changed much over time.  I can generally keep an open mind until someone tells me, “You WILL, you WON’T you CAN’T, you MUST, you HAVE to . . . ”  Anything that pushes me into a corner receives a (sometimes unwarranted) push back.

I have other stuff, too.  Like the fact that I ALWAYS get lost and the directions that make so much sense to everyone else on the planet become a jumbled mass of confusion to me.

I have an organized mind that sees the world in a perpetual outline with points I, II and II and subpoints A, B, and C, but I desperately need a personal secretary to keep me from losing papers and to clean through my desk and help me remember where I put my keys, the library book, the document, the super important thing that I absolutely cannot lose but have managed to misplace.

It doesn’t end there.  I’m a people-pleaser in daily need of encouragement and too easily crushed by constructive criticism.  I’m not always patient with failure, especially in myself, and even sometimes with my kids.  I have a problem with jealousy, not so much for “stuff,” but maybe for success or impact.

There’s more.  The longer I sit here typing away, the more mess I’ll probably discover.

And while in any and all of these areas God has been at work, digging out junk, sometimes with a gentle gloved hand and sometimes with a pick-axe, still there is mess.  There are days where it’s a little overwhelming. Or maybe a lot.

When my house is too disorderly, I can’t think, I can’t concentrate, my stress level rises.  It’s the same with my heart when I see the junk drawers overflowing or discover trash hiding in corners that I hadn’t noticed before.

How is there any room left for what is good and pure and lovely? 
How is there any possibility of inviting God in amongst junk? 
How can anyone feel welcomed and loved into this place of distracting trash?

Once when she was out driving, Ruth Graham noticed that a stretch of highway that had undergone road work for far too long was finally finished and reopened.  They had even posted a sign: “End of Construction.  Thanks for Your Patience.”

She wanted that message to be on her tombstone, a reminder that it’s only in heaven, at the feet of God and clothed in the forgiveness of Christ, that construction on our hearts and minds will be complete.

Until then, we need people–and God–to be patient with us.  Yes, we even need to be a little patient with ourselves.

God is able to transform us and make us new as long as we give over sin, faults, idols, foibles, weakness and failures to Him.  This is part of our salvation story, not a one-time dip in the cleansing blood of Christ’s sacrifice.  It’s the journey of our faith, the sanctification or making holy over time.

And it does take time.

This is what Paul promises, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6 ESV).

In the meantime, we have grace, precious grace, and the reminder that our mess is never too heavy to bring to God.

My own efforts are little more than attempts at self-control, self-direction, self-justification, self-perfection, self-reliance and self-confidence.

Then, SELF just becomes part of the mess that we lug to the feet of Jesus.

Ultimately, our own efforts fail.  Giving up completely hinders our relationship with God.  Wallowing in self-loathing means we reject His grace as insufficient to cover our sin.

All that’s left is to bring our mess to God and rejoice in His mercy.  Like the woman who poured out her tears and expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet, we find ourselves moved to passionate worship of and service for a God who has forgiven our many sins (Luke 7:47).

Paul wrote, “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God” ( Romans 12:1).

We aren’t holy and pleasing sacrifices to God because we’re finished, perfected, construction complete.

Instead, we offer ourselves up, mess and all,  “in view of God’s mercy.”

His grace covers us, cleanses us and, in His compassion, He transforms us.  He’s big enough and gracious enough to tackle our mess until the day He decides that construction is complete and He takes us home.

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

Weekend Walk, 06/23/2012

Hiding the Word:

Last night, our kids colored their last craft, ran around the gym for the last game, and tasted their last snack of Vacation Bible School.  All week long, we taught the kids to trust God . . . no matter what.

Whoever they are . . .
However they feel . . .
Even when people hurt them . . .
Even when bad things happen . .  .
And anywhere they go . . .
Trust God

Sounds so simple.  Sounds so childlike.  Sounds so easy.

But of course we know the truth.  Most of us need the constant reminder, encouragement and challenge to trust Him.  We need a perpetual bright red string tied around our finger.

So, this week I’m choosing to meditate on a verse that speaks truth about that trust.

It’s not based on anything I do or whatever I muster up in my own strength.  We trust God because of His steadfast, unfailing, loyal, everlasting covenant love for us.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
    my heart shall rejoice in your salvation (Psalm 13:5)

Weekend Rerun:

After a week of lessons on Group’s Sky VBS!, I’m reminded of the lessons I wrote last year on the Group PandaMania VBS.  This was one of my favorites that week:

God Loves You, No Matter What
Originally posted June 23, 2011

After a conversation with a friend this week, I recalled the first time I had to turn over my green card on the classroom behavior chart and leave the yellow card on top.  I was in third grade and had forgotten my math homework.  The teacher asked us to hand it in and I quickly zipped open my backpack to grab up my finished paper.

Only it wasn’t there.  So, I pushed things around gently and then more energetically.  I scrambled through the papers and then yanked everything out.  Slowly I realized my paper wasn’t in there.  I had nothing to turn in.

So, I had to shuffle over to the behavior bulletin board and take my punishment.  A yellow card for Heather.  Bright yellow so everyone in the class could see I messed up.  I forgot.  I was careless and irresponsible.

Embarrassed, I slinked back to my desk and slumped down hoping to become invisible in my chair.  My face was burning red hot, the kind of shame that makes your ears sear into the sides of your head.

But, when I sheepishly glanced at the bulletin board the next morning, I saw a green card next to my name again.  It was a new day and with it came a rush of joy that the mistakes of yesterday could be so simply erased and forgotten.

It was the astonishing grace of a fresh start.

That’s what Christ did for us.  Raising us up from the dead.  Taking our place on the cross and erasing the record of our wrongs so that we could stand before the Most Holy God and look . . . holy and pure.

He saw you and me as worth saving even when we were splattered with the mud of sins and caked in the foul dirt of this world. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

So, what should we do with this amazing grace?

I know what I do most of the time—forget it, take it for granted, or, even worse, nullify it by trying to be perfect.  I begin to live in a spiritual world of musts, shoulds, do’s, don’ts, shalls and shall nots.

The Psalmist wrote, “If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?  But with you there is forgiveness; therefore, You are feared” (Psalm 130:3-4).

Yes, we would be pounded into the ground if we carried the weight of our sins on our wimpy shoulders.  We couldn’t stand in His presence much less crawl face to the ground before His throne.

But.

But with Him there is forgiveness.  Praise God!

The Psalmist ends that thought with, “Therefore, You are feared.”  Not the fright of might, though.  Not the run and hide kind of fear.  Not obeying God to escape His wrath.  Not surrendering to Him in order to earn His love.

The Old Testament Bible Knowledge Commentary says this is the fear of “worship and obedience.  The Scriptures state that many results come from fearing the Lord; the most notable is that the person keeps himself from sin.”

In January of this year, I felt the heavy nudging of the Holy Spirit asking me two questions, one of which was, “Are you ready for where I want to take you next?”  The God who loved me passionately was asking me to walk in worship and obedience—holy fear in response to abundant grace.

“That depends,” I answered.  “Where are we going?  How long will it take?  What is the expense-to-benefit ratio?”

It sounds mercenary, but those are the questions that rumbled around in my head and heart for weeks.  Was it safer to stay where I was?  Was safer necessarily better?

His question sounds so simple and easy when we belt out “I surrender all” in a church service.  Then there’s that moment when God takes you up on your offer and asks you to surrender your plans for the future, your comfort, your life, and you wonder how much “all” actually is.

And then I felt it, the pull of performance and the tug on my heart to just do what God wants so He’ll love me, so I won’t let Him down, so I can live up to what a Bible Study girl should do.  It was a works-based response of duty rather than the bride’s response of affection to the overwhelming passion and love of her Groom.

So I waited to answer God.  I waited until I truly believed that God would love me no matter what.  That the choices I make here may affect God’s plans for me, may affect my impact on others, may affect how I am blessed, but they will never affect His unconditional and unending love.

Only then, in the light of so much grace, knowing that I answered Him out of love and not duty, I bashfully answered, “I do.”  I do want to go with You.  I do want whatever you desire for me.

Why do we obey Him?  Why do we whisper “I do” when He asks us to surrender?  Why do we choose the difficult right over the much easier wrong?

So He will love us?  No—because He loves us. 

We ask Him to “lead me along the path of everlasting life”  because there’s no other place where we can walk next to Him, our tiny palm nestled inside His nail-scarred hand (Psalm 139:24).

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.