It Helps to Know We’re Not Alone

2 corinthians 1

“I get it.”

That’s what I said to my girl.  She was feeling ashamed, a memory from a mistake held her a little hostage.

It was a simple thing that had overwhelmed her: a new situation, someone giving her instructions she didn’t understand, pressure to make a decision and she did the wrong thing.

It wasn’t that she sinned.  She just messed up.  It was a misunderstanding, an accident.

And it deflated her, embarrassment and shame threatening to suck the joy right out of the whole experience.

Weeks later, any time she thought about that day, she still remembered it:  The MISTAKE.

And she felt all that pressure and all that shame and all that self-criticism beat on her all over again.

So, one day I dipped my head down to hers and slipped my arm around her shoulder and I said, “I get this.”

And I do.  If I’m pressured to make a decision, I will almost always do the wrong thing.  My split-second reactions are foolish, and all that imperfection is embarrassing, crushing even, to a perfection-striving girl like me.

Then I told her what I’ve learned and what I’m learning about how to overcome my decision-making deficiency and the way I can mess up and the way I can get buried in shame.

I felt the tension in her shoulders ease at the sound of my confession.  It never occurred to her that she wasn’t alone.  That maybe others, maybe even her mom, does foolish things sometimes. Or that others have a hard time letting go and getting over past mistakes.

There’s power in knowing someone understands.

And, I take comfort in this also, even though Jesus doesn’t understand what it’s like to sin, He does understand what it’s like to be tempted.  He knows what the accusations of Satan sound like.

When he asks me to endure, be patient, withstand trials or suffering, love my enemies, speak truth, or show love, He gets it.  He has been there.

Eugene Peterson wrote:

“Lord Jesus Christ, how grateful I am that You have entered the arena of suffering and hurt and evil.  If all I had were words spoken from a quiet hillside, I would not have what I needed most — Your victory over the worst, Your presence in time of need.”

Jesus could have preached “Blessed are the merciful and the meek and the pure in heart,” and those messages would have been challenging, beautiful even.

But ultimately, they’d be meaningless pep-talks about morality and character.

He didn’t just make speeches, though.

He showed mercy.

He lived with meekness.

He interceded for those crucifying Him as He labored to breathe on the cross.

He remained pure even as Satan tempted Him in the desert.

Jesus didn’t just say it; He lived it.

That’s why the writer of Hebrews reminds us that:

For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.  Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:17-18).

This mercy is our comfort and our joy.

Jesus doesn’t stand aloof and full of judgment, looking down at us for messing up or falling short.

Our merciful High Priest bends down low and helps us overcome.

In the same way, Jesus asks us to do more than just make speeches at people and proclaim truth.  He asks us to live it and then share it.

Paul wrote:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God (1 Corinthians 1:3-4).

So, we who have received mercy, offer others the relief of mercy.

“I get it…I don’t always have it together either.”  That’s what we confess.

We don’t pretend everything is perfect; we share the vulnerability of life.

When we’ve walked through cancer, we love others through cancer.  We who have experienced loss, love others through loss.

We comfort the friend, we share in her struggle, in the bad news, in the mistakes, and we pour out generous helpings of grace because God heaped grace on us.

We give others the gift we’ve received ourselves:  Knowing we’re not alone.

What comfort has God given you so that you may comfort others?

Have mercy on us

daniel 9

My oldest girl gave a speech that was bursting with righteous indignation.

Her class had misbehaved in the school lunchroom.

These fifth graders had been out of their seats, standing up on the little round chairs attached to the lunch tables.

They had been loud and obnoxious.

So they were punished.

It wasn’t just the misbehaving few, though, who bore the load of consequences.  Oh no, the whole class had to write a letter of apology to the lunchroom monitors.

And that wasn’t fair, my daughter said.

Why should she apologize for the bad choices of others, for their immaturity and out of control actions?  She had sat there quietly eating her lunch.

Yet, she had to write, “I’m sorry.”

So, she devised a plan: Write a letter that absolved her of responsibility.  “I’m sorry that others in my class were out of control.  I’m sorry that other students were so bad.”

That kind of thing, the kind of line-in-the-sand distinction between the righteous and the unrighteous, the right and the wrong, the worthy and the unworthy, the good and the bad.

We’re experts at these kinds of distinctions.  We draw lines politically.  We draw lines socially.  We draw lines at work and maybe at church more than anywhere else.

Our prayers are “us” versus “them.”

“Lord, please forgive those people who sin.  Please forgive those who really aren’t following you.”

We know those prayers don’t include us, of course, not the good and holy ones who clearly have earned God’s favor.

Yet, I challenge my black-and-white, rule-following, fairness-and-justice-demanding daughter with a prayer from the book of Daniel that’s a shock to pride and self-righteousness.

Israel had committed idolatry.

Not Daniel, of course, but masses of people had been traipsing after foreign gods and stone idols for generation after generation.

Israel had disobeyed the law and dishonored the temple.

Not Daniel, of course, but so many others had turned their backs on God, choosing blasphemy and rebellion instead.

God finally declared, “enough is enough!”  He disciplined his people by allowing them to be conquered, the temple destroyed, His people taken away from their homes.

Now Daniel was in Babylon, one of the first to be carted away from his home and taken into captivity in a foreign land.

He was now a subject of pagan kings, living and working in an environment often hostile to his faith.

Daniel bore the full weight of God’s punishment for his people, but he hadn’t done anything wrong.

He was a sinner, of course.  We all are.  Yet, he hadn’t committed idolatry.  He hadn’t defiled himself.  He hadn’t sacrificed children to Molech or bowed down to Baal.

Still, when he prayed for his people, Daniel said this:

“Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances. Moreover, we have not listened to Your servants the prophets… (Daniel 9:4-6).

We have sinned.

We have disobeyed.

We have not listened.

We.

I share this with my daughter and I ask her to consider what it would look like if she apologized for the “We” and not the “Them.”

She didn’t do anything wrong, yet could she humble herself enough to set aside the ‘fair’ and ‘just’ and choose the low and the merciful and the heart of intercession?

“I’m sorry that our class caused such a disruption.  I’m sorry that we didn’t behave in the lunchroom.”

Could she make that choice like Daniel did?

Can we?

When we pray for others and when we pray for our nation and for our churches and our communities, our husbands, our kids, our family, our friends, can we choose to pray with them instead of praying while looking down at them?

Not, “Lord, please forgive my husband for not praying like he should and leading our family like you want him to.”

Not, “Lord, please forgive my friends who gossip.”

Not, “Lord, please forgive the people in our country who are messing it all up.”

No, like Daniel, we drop down on our face before God and cry out, “God forgive us!!  We have messed up.  We have sinned.  We are unworthy.”

And we know this truth, that God doesn’t wash us clean because we deserve it, not because we’re good enough or holy enough or righteous enough to merit grace.

Daniel said it:

We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy (Daniel 9:18 NIV).

How could this change the way we pray for our marriages, families, churches and nation?

 

This is why I need a Savior

psalm 103.jpg

I was a freshman in college when an older friend took me for a walk and confronted me about the deathly sharpness of my tongue, how I could cut another student to pieces and leave them in shreds on the campus floor.

Since then, there has been grace.

The Holy Spirit dug out mounds of trash and began growing kindness, gentleness, and self-control in me.

I started to think that this new ‘me’ is the real me, the gracious and gentle me who loves others and keeps her tongue in check.  I thought I had learned the lesson:

There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,
    but the tongue of the wise brings healing (Proverbs 12:18 ESV).

But it was pride, foolish pride.

Now, the Lord is breaking that self-righteousness right down. It stings and aches, and I’d just like Him to finish the construction project already so I can stop feeling so bruised and laid bare.

I’ve been losing my ‘cool,’ snapping back when I felt challenged, flashing to defend myself.

One time felt like a fluke, just a bad day. But then it happened again. And again.

Every time, I’d think, “What’s wrong with me?  That’s not who I am!”

I’d spend days, weeks even after each incident rehearsing the scenes in my mind, wincing at my words, embarrassed and ashamed.

I resolved to try harder next time. Be calm. Stay in control. Take deep breaths.  Don’t talk when provoked.  Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to get angry.

Not that I’m cursing or yelling, of course.  It’s just that temporary loss of control, speaking now and thinking later (with regret).

That’s not me.   I’m sweet and kind.  I’m patient and slow to speak.

That’s what I kept telling myself.

But the truth is even when I kept control of my tongue, the trash was in my heart–the criticism or judgments, the flashes of self-protective wit and anger.

Now God seems to be letting the trash of my heart come pouring out my mouth so I can’t hide it, not even from myself.

I keep entering the boxing ring and beating at myself with the same commentary.

I can’t believe I said that. 

That’s not me.  That’s not who I am. 

What’s wrong with me?

Why am I so easily provoked?

I am an idiot.

I’m so embarrassed.  

I review my day as a mom and realize I blew it here and I messed up there.  I hear how my tone of voices loses gentleness even with my own kids.

I’ve spent months carrying around a load of shame and embarrassment because I just can’t seem to shake my reactivity.

What’s wrong with me?

Then this weekend, I read Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman and she pinned me to a display board when she said this:

Shock and shame are my most natural and immediate responses when I make a bad choice or have a bad reaction….If I feel shocked and ashamed when I snap…, maybe I’m assuming I can handle life on my own and I don’t really need redemption, not really. And so when my soul has a bad idea, I can’t believe it.

Shock and shame. That’s been me.

Why am I so shocked by my own sinfulness?  Every. Single. Time.

It’s because I’ve been leaning so heavily on my own self-righteousness that I’ve failed to collapse in the arms of grace.

It’s because I’ve been assuming I could be perfect and am angry when I’m not.

I have messages I tell my kids over and over, hoping they’ll ring true in the deepest parts of them.

I love you.

You’re beautiful. 

I believe in you.

And this:

No one is perfect. We all mess up.  We sin.  That’s why we need a Savior.  If we could be perfect on our own, we wouldn’t need Jesus.

Maybe in this season of humility and the breaking down, I find myself learning the lesson I’ve been preaching—

Accept the grace.  Be loved.

Stop being shocked and embarrassed because I need a Savior.

Be humbled and live in awe of the One who Saves.

I don’t receive mercy because I’m perfect; I receive it because I’m imperfect and relying on Christ.

Aren’t we all?

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:8-12 NIV).

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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

 

Fire drills, tornado drills, lockdown drills, oh my!

psalm 31-22

My daughter announced that she hates ‘drills.’

All kinds of drills, she says.

They were only about two weeks into the school year at the time.

They had fire drills.

They had a tornado drill.

My oldest daughter chimes in about ‘lock-down drills,’ and how her teacher is so funny but the one thing she is super serious about is anyone who dares to giggle, laugh or even squeak out a hint of noise during a lockdown drill.

“She’ll send you to the principal,” my daughter lowers her voice for added drama.

These older girls of mine try to reassure the youngest sister that drills are essential and there to help and not really a big deal.

But the baby girl is testing out fear here.  I can see it on her face and I hear it in the way she keeps bringing these drills up.  When she gets home from school.  Over dinner.  In the minivan.  As she climbs into my lap for bedtime prayers.

“The drills…the drills….the drills…”

Clearly, they are on her mind.  And we older and wiser ones keep jumping in with confidence that everything is fine and not to be afraid, but she’s just not convinced.

So, the fear is kind of leaking out of her heart and into our conversations.

Oh, I don’t blame the drills, of course.   I let her tell me about them all over again and then I look right into her two blue eyes and I even brush away her wild bangs so she can’t miss this reassurance:

Those drills are there to keep you safe.  So that if anything ever happens, you’re not too scared to do the right thing.  We drill now so we don’t have to be afraid later.

She nods knowingly, but I’m her mom and I know we’ll probably have this conversation again in a month when the alarm goes off at school and all the kids file outside for yet another fire drill. So we pray about it, every time it comes up, I pray peace for her.

It’d be nice, it’d be great, it’d be heaven really if we didn’t need drills, if we didn’t have to practice for fire or intruders or tornadoes or a world of harm and hurt.

But we live here, on a broken earth with sin and natural disasters and trouble.

And how we react in the crisis makes a difference.

I know this because haven’t I been alarmed and sent into a dizzying whirlpool of fear at the slightest provocation?

A phone call.

An email.

A Facebook post, for goodness’ sake.

Maybe you, too?  The doctor’s report, the bill in the mail, the late night call, the hurtful remark, the broken car (again), the sobbing friend?

Trouble storms into our lives and how we react in the crisis matters.

We’re tempted to freak out and run around like a wild woman with her hands flailing hysterically in the air.

We’re in crisis mode.  Making phone calls.  Feeling hopeless.  Crying desperately.  Feeling helpless.  Rallying the troops and sending out an SOS signal and doing anything possible to keep from drowning.

I’ll be honest, sometimes it doesn’t even take a crisis, it just takes one tiny bump into my plans for the day for me to settle into a funk of frantic activity and aggravated grumpiness.

The Psalmist said it just right:

In my alarm I said,
    “I am cut off from your sight!”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy
    when I called to you for help (Psalm 31:22 NIV).

In our alarm, when the bad news comes and we haven’t had time for faith to kick in, we snap to the judgment that God has abandoned us.

He can’t see us.

We’re cut off from Him, alone, dependent on our own strength to get us out of this mess.

Our natural reaction to an alarm is haste and hysteria, foolishness and fear.

It’s unnatural to choose peace under pressure.

Yet, the Holy Spirit offers us just such unnatural, supernatural peace.

When everything settled and the crisis passed, the Psalmist recognized the truth: “Yet you heard my cry….”

In the haste of the moment, he had rushed into fear.  But then he saw what was true, God had indeed heard His cry for help.

What about us?

Over time, after alarm and alarm and alarm have passed and the dust settles and we see Jesus right there with us, surely we’d know by now what to do in case of crisis:

Cry to God for help.

Trust Him to hear your call.

Rest in the assurance of His presence.

Choose peace.

Not flaky peace, vague peace, warm-and-fuzzy-feeling peace, or the peace of blindness to our circumstances.

The peace that is the confident assurance of Christ’s presence right where we are.

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

 

50 Bible Verses on Compassion

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  • Exodus 22:27b NIV
    When they cry out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.
  • Exodus 33:19 NIV
    And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
  • Exodus 34:6 NIV
     And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness
  • Deuteronomy 13:17 NIV
    and none of the condemned things are to be found in your hands. Then the Lord will turn from his fierce anger, will show you mercy, and will have compassion on you. He will increase your numbers, as he promised on oath to your ancestors—
  • Deuteronomy 30:3 NIV
    then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you.
  • 2 Kings 13:23 NIV
    But the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion and showed concern for them because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. To this day he has been unwilling to destroy them or banish them from his presence.
  • 2 Chronicles 30:9 NIV
    If you return to the Lord, then your fellow Israelites and your children will be shown compassion by their captors and will return to this land, for the Lord your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to him.”
  • Nehemiah 9:17 NIV
     They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them,
  • Nehemiah 9:19 NIV
    Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the wilderness. By day the pillar of cloud did not fail to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take
  • Psalm 51:1 NIV
  • Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
  • Psalm 86:15 NIV
    But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
  • Psalm 90:13 NIV
    Relent, Lord! How long will it be?
        Have compassion on your servants.
  • Psalm 102:13 NIV
    You will arise and have compassion on Zion,
        for it is time to show favor to her;
        the appointed time has come.
  • Psalm 103:4 NIV
    who redeems your life from the pit
        and crowns you with love and compassion
  • Psalm 103:8 NIV
    The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
        slow to anger, abounding in love
  • Psalm 103:13 NIV
    As a father has compassion on his children,
        so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
  • Psalm 111:4 NIV
    He has caused his wonders to be remembered;
        the Lord is gracious and compassionate.
  • Psalm 112:4 NIV
    Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
        for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.
  • Psalm 116:5 NIV
    The Lord is gracious and righteous;
        our God is full of compassion.
  • Psalm 119:77 NIV
    Let your compassion come to me that I may live,
        for your law is my delight.
  • Psalm 119:156 NIV
    Your compassion, Lord, is great;
        preserve my life according to your laws.
  • Psalm 135:14 NIV
    For the Lord will vindicate his people
        and have compassion on his servants.
  • Psalm 145:8-9 NIV
    The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
        slow to anger and rich in love.
    The Lord is good to all;
        he has compassion on all he has made.
  • Isaiah 14:1 NIV
    The Lord will have compassion on Jacob;
        once again he will choose Israel
        and will settle them in their own land.
    Foreigners will join them
        and unite with the descendants of Jacob.
  • Isaiah 30:18 NIV
    Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
        therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
    For the Lord is a God of justice.
        Blessed are all who wait for him!
  • Isaiah 49:10 NIV
    They will neither hunger nor thirst,
        nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them.
    He who has compassion on them will guide them
        and lead them beside springs of water.
  • Isaiah 49:13 NIV
    Shout for joy, you heavens;
        rejoice, you earth;
        burst into song, you mountains!
    For the Lord comforts his people
        and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.
  • Isaiah 49:15 NIV
    “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
        and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
    Though she may forget,
        I will not forget you!
  • Isaiah 51:3 NIV
    The Lord will surely comfort Zion
        and will look with compassion on all her ruins;
    he will make her deserts like Eden,
        her wastelands like the garden of the Lord.
    Joy and gladness will be found in her,
        thanksgiving and the sound of singing.
  • Isaiah 54:7-10 NIV
    “For a brief moment I abandoned you,
        but with deep compassion I will bring you back.
    In a surge of anger
        I hid my face from you for a moment,
    but with everlasting kindness
        I will have compassion on you,”
        says the Lord your Redeemer.
    “To me this is like the days of Noah,
        when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth.
    So now I have sworn not to be angry with you,
        never to rebuke you again./
    10 Though the mountains be shaken
        and the hills be removed,
    yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
        nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
        says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
  • Isaiah 60:10 NIV
    “Foreigners will rebuild your walls,
        and their kings will serve you.
    Though in anger I struck you,
        in favor I will show you compassion.
  • Isaiah 63:7 NIV
    I will tell of the kindnesses of the Lord, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the Lord has done for us— yes, the many good things he has done for Israel, according to hiscompassion and many kindnesses.
  • Jeremiah 12:15 NIV
    But after I uproot them, I will again have compassion and will bring each of them back to their own inheritance and their own country.
  • Jeremiah 31:20 NIV
    Is not Ephraim my dear son,
        the child in whom I delight?
    Though I often speak against him,
        I still remember him.
    Therefore my heart yearns for him;
        I have great compassion for him,”
    declares the Lord.
  • Jeremiah 42:12 NIV
    I will show you compassion so that he will have compassion on you and restore you to your land.’
  • Lamentations 3:22 NIV
    Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
        for his compassions never fail.
  • Lamentations 3:32 NIV
    Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
        so great is his unfailing love.
  • Ezekiel 39:25 NIV
    Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will now restore the fortunes of Jacob[a] and will have compassion on all the people of Israel, and I will be zealous for my holy name.
  • Hosea 2:19 NIV
    I will betroth you to me forever;
        I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
        in love and compassion.
  • Joel 2:13 NIV
    Rend your heart
        and not your garments.
    Return to the Lord your God,
        for he is gracious and compassionate,
    slow to anger and abounding in love,
        and he relents from sending calamity.
  • Jonah 4:2 NIV
    He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.
  • Micah 7:19 NIV
    You will again have compassion on us;
        you will tread our sins underfoot
        and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
  • Zechariah 7:9 NIV
    This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.
  • Zechariah 10:6 NIV
    I will strengthen Judah and save the tribes of Joseph. I will restore them because I have compassion on them. They will be as though I had not rejected them, for I am the Lord their God and I will answer them.
  • Malachi 3:17 NIV
    “On the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty, “they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him.
  • Matthew 9:36 ESV
    When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
  • Matthew 14:14 ESV
    When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
  • Matthew 20:34 NIV
    Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.
  • Mark 6:34 ESV
     When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.
  • Luke 7:13-15 ESV
    And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her,“Do not weep.” 14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.
  • Luke 15:20 NIV
    So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
  • Romans 9:15 NIV
    For he says to Moses,

    “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
        and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

  • 2 Corinthians 1:3 NIV
    Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,
  • Ephesians 4:23 NIV
    Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
  • Philippians 2:1-2 NIV
    Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.
  • Colossians 3:12-13 ESV
    Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other;as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
  • James 5:11 NIV
    As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
  • 1 Peter 3:8 NIV
    Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble

When You’re Not The Best Mom Ever

psalm 116.jpg

“Thanks, Mom.  You’re the best mom ever.”

It was a casual minivan conversation.  She climbed up into her seat after preschool.  I promised to make her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with strawberries and pretzels for lunch.

She bestowed on me the title of “Best Mom Ever,” clicked her seatbelt, and then asked if she could play on my Kindle.

But two days later, I am still thinking about the mercy of this.

I may be a good mom, a making-an-effort-mom, an intentional mom, an organized mom, a take-this-seriously mom….

…but I am not the “Best Mom Ever.”

I have those days.  (Don’t we all?)

I grow weary.  I snap.  I grumble over dirty dishes and toilets.  I push too hard.  I hold on to things when I need to let go.  I feel distracted or selfish.  I forget.

This girl, though, this tiny encourager in the minivan seat behind me, doesn’t give me what I deserve or merit or earn.  She overlooks the faults and failures.

That’s what mercy does.

Mercy says, “You deserve judgment, discipline, and second-class status….but I choose not to give you what you deserve.”

And this is how I’ve learned to pray.

Lord, have mercy.

That Pharisee stood all bold and confident in the synagogue, booming out those prayers.  “God, I’m so righteous.  God I’m so worthy.  I’m not like those other people, the riff-raff and the sinners.”

But that tax collector dropped his eyes low:

“God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 8:13 NIV).

Have mercy on me, Lord.

And that blind man begging by the side of the road heard that Jesus was passing by and what could he cry out?  That he deserved healing?  That somehow he had suffered long enough and had earned a miracle?

No, he screamed it out so Jesus could hear this one desperate cry over the noisy chaos of the mob:

“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!  (Luke 18:38 NIV).

This mercy prayer is what Jesus loved, the one that caught His attention and made Him pause, turn aside, and deliver.  Lord, have mercy.

Even Daniel, this man so righteous in the Baylonian world of unrighteousness, knew he couldn’t pray because of his own merit.

We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy (Daniel 9:18 NIV).

So I pray this also about situations for others and situations for me: Lord, have mercy on me!prayer-for-mercy

This is no manipulative mantra, no magic incantation.  It’s not the words themselves that matter.

It’s the attitude of my heart.  God delights in the humble.  He shows compassion to the needy.

And it’s right here where I recognize my utter dependence on Him that He shows His glory most clearly.

God, I know what I’ve already been given—mercy and grace, so much grace. You have been good to me.

And I know I can’t come here asking for Your help because I’ve worked this hard or because I am this good.  Not because I’ve tried to obey or because I’m righteous.  Not because I’ve spent this much time in Your Word today or got down on my knees when I prayed instead of praying with my eyes open while I’m driving.

There’s no holy act that could earn me the right to ask this….

No amount of “good” that makes me “good enough” to request Your favor or Your blessing.

And yet, I pray simply because You are merciful.

Scripture says God hears my prayers, but the answers don’t seem to come and it feels like He’s not even hearing me.

Am I being too bold?  Am I asking for too much?  Are there far more important things on His agenda?

Am I complaining too much and should I just settle for less and be grateful for what I get?  Am I too needy?  Too demanding or spoiled?

But then this.

I open up my daily Bible reading and start to run right through that Psalm for the day and at that first verse I sit stunned.  I read it over and over again:

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
    he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
    I will call on him as long as I live (Psalm 116:1-2 NIV).

He blows this fresh wind of mercy over me and He fills my hyperventilating lungs with His very own breath of hope and life.

I still can’t see the answer to my prayer.  I don’t see the solution or the end.

But I know this—He hears my cry for mercy.

Originally published May 21, 2014

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

Taking the Tenderness Challenge

Colossians 3-12

Here’s the challenge:

Your child spills her cup of milk at dinner.

She wasn’t being bad.  It certainly wasn’t malicious.  But she was a child who was being…childish.  Not quite paying attention.  Acting a little clumsy, a little distracted, and a little too caught up in being silly and not paying enough attention to the distance between her hand and the cup on the dinner table.

You know…this is how accidents happen.  We make mistakes.

Do you:

  • Sigh.  Big.  Maybe roll your eyes.  Make a big body language statement about how fed up you are with childish behavior.
  • Lecture.  Give a grand ol’ parental speech about paying attention, maybe even covering topics such as physics, human behavior, and child psychology.
  • Yell.  Call the child names and shame them.
  • Give them the silent treatment.
  • Place your hand on their back gently as you hand them some paper towels and whisper the reminder that mistakes happen.

Me?  I’m generally a lecturer.  In fact, my speeches take on a life of their own at times. I know I should stop lecturing my child and driving home deep life lessons at such a moment, but it’s like I just cannot stop my tongue and hush my mouth up already.

What about you?

I’ve been reading and re-reading this story about Martha, grumbling and complaining in the kitchen and then running to Jesus to tattle-tale about her sister, Mary.

Maybe during the summer months when my own kids are devolving into spats and squabbles and then come running to me for judicial rulings, I’m totally interested in how Jesus responds to sisters fighting.

First, I notice what He doesn’t do.

He doesn’t shame Martha.

He doesn’t heave His shoulders up and down in a big, audible sigh.  He doesn’t roll His eyes or nonverbally scream that He’s oh-so-tired of Martha’s childish behavior.

He doesn’t call her names.

He doesn’t bully her, abuse her or lecture her.

Jesus responds with tenderness.  Right in the middle of her chaos and conflict, right where she is in sin and ugliness, right when you’d think she merited punishment or admonition , Jesus chooses the loving response instead.

He starts off by saying:

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things” (Luke 10:41 ESV).

Only then, after He’s gentle assured her of His attention and care, does He address the greater need of her heart.

And then there’s Peter, of course, sitting with Jesus after His resurrection and likely feeling desperately afraid of what Jesus might do or say.

Peter was the denier.  The one who promised to stick by Jesus no matter what and the one who betrayed him at the earliest opportunity.

How would Jesus react to Peter?

Duck behind the aisles of Jerusalem’s Wal-Mart in order to avoid Him?

Un-friend him on Facebook?

Stop answering his phone calls?

Would he yell or scream or turn away or belittle Peter, such a failure of a disciple?

No, Jesus shares a breakfast of newly caught fish with Peter and over the crackling of a seaside bonfire, restores Peter and commissions him for leadership within the new church.

Jesus reflects God’s heart for us, just as the prophet Isaiah wrote:

 Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you… (Isaiah 30:18a ESV).

He chooses to be gracious.  He doesn’t give us what we deserve; He gives us compassion.

Of course, it’s not natural.

Lectures are natural.

Frustration is natural.

Annoyance and even anger are natural.

When someone else fails, we can default to what’s natural or we can choose what is Jesus.

As a mom, a wife, a friend, a woman….I want to choose Jesus, not just when it’s easy, but when the pressure is on.  When my heart is racing, when I’m hurt, when I’m annoyed or even angry, choose Jesus.

May my instant reaction, the one unfiltered by niceties and good Christian girl facades, be deep-down compassion and grace.

Gary Smalley wrote:

Remaining tender during a trial is one of the most powerful ways to build an intimate relationship (Love is a Decision).

He also said,

At the moment of vulnerability, and particularly in the midst of the crisis itself, what a person needs first is tenderness (Love is a Decision).

Character-training can come later.  Loving boundaries or correction can come later, quietly, privately, gently.  There’ll be plenty of time for that.

But right there when there’s mess all around and their heart is hurting, people need tender mercy not condemnation.

So, I can build up relational walls and spout off words I’ll later regret, or I can reach out a gentle hand, place it on the small of their back and take the tenderness challenge by learning how to love others like Jesus loves me.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience (Colossians 3:12 ESV).

ShabbyBlogsDividerJ

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.

 

 

 

When you’re tempted to react instead of respond

psalm 103

I made a speech about it.

My oration covered the themes of procrastination, respect for others, taking things for granted, and gratitude.  I delivered my speech while I drove in my minivan, while I stared at myself in the bathroom mirror, and on the phone to my husband while he drove home from work.

It was a great speech and I delivered it really well.  My points were well-argued and well-reasoned.  By the time I finished, I had her accused, cross-examined and pronounced guilty on the stand.

This woman….

This woman had not only ignored my email messages, she had left the email group I was using to send out information about an upcoming event for her child.

So, how’s she going to know all the info that I’ll be sending out in the highly important emails she now had prevented me from sending her?

I mean, good gracious, what is wrong with people?

It wasn’t until the next day that I got hit in the face by the full impact of my foot flying into my mouth.

Turns out due to the odd spelling of her last name and some messy handwriting, I had mis-read her email address.

Turns out this woman had never gotten any of my messages I’d sent and I’d actually been blocked by some poor, random stranger who probably thought—this lady is out of her mind.

Oops.

Good thing all those speeches I made were to myself, my mirror, my one-year-old and my husband.

Serves me right for jumping to conclusions, for being easily offended and for judging without contemplation, without grace, without time for facts and truth and gentleness.

I was wrong.  So, so very wrong.  And I had to take a long humbling look at myself and see what was ugly, infected and festering in my heart.

The Psalmist says:

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (Psalm 103:8 ESV).

In fact, I read this song of worship all over my Bible.  It is the hymn of God’s character:

“The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6 ESV).

 ‘The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.’ Numbers 14:18 ESV

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15 ESV

Return to the Lord your God,
    for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;
    and he relents over disaster. Joel 2:13 ESV

I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster (Jonah 4:2 ESV)

I read it and I’m so thankful. I’m moved to worship, moved to humble gratitude.

Because if there’s one thing I need, it’s a God who is slow to anger, who is gracious and full of abundant mercy for a messy, sin-covered girl like me.

Yes, our God is Slow To Anger.

Are we?

We could chalk this up to divinity.  That’s just who God is.

But no.

James writes:

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger (James 1:19 ESV).

Ouch.

God wants to do this work in me also.

He wants me to listen first and listen well before making speeches in my car or shooting off a nasty email or calling up a friend to gossip or jumping into conflict.

I am to be quick to hear, slow to speak.

And yes, slow to anger also.

More willing to bestow grace than to deliver an oration.

More apt to overlook an offense than leap into an argument.

More inclined to believe the best about another person’s intentions or motivations than assuming the worst and jumping to unfair conclusions.

More prone to listen and love even when someone else hurts us, because maybe they just had a bad day, maybe it’s not how things appear, maybe they just didn’t know or didn’t mean it that way.

This world doesn’t respond to situations.  It reacts.

We can learn how to stop reacting in anger and start responding with the same grace and mercy that Christ shows us.

It starts by slowing down.  

Wait before answering.

Listen before speaking.

Think before acting.

Pray before we do anything.

 

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.

Sometimes a Crock-Pot is Just a Crock-Pot (and other wisdom for the indecisive)

philippians3

An indecisive person (AKA me) plus a store aisle full of choices = paralysis, disaster, and maybe a meltdown in the middle of the Wal-Mart.

It all started when I poured spaghetti sauce ingredients into my beloved Crock-Pot.  I felt like a domestic diva, a household management expert.

After racing from school to activities and then home, I’d be greeted by the aroma of simmering sauce instead of shoving a hamburger and French fries in my face after a drive-thru dinner run.

Win!

Only when I arrived home, there was no lingering scent of basil, oregano and tomato sauce in the air.

My Crock-Pot was still cold.

Knowing my propensity for human error, I ran through the possible list of user failures.  Had I plugged it in?  Check.  Had I turned the dial from OFF to LOW?  Check.

It had simply died.  (Cue funeral dirge).

That means my shopping list now included the item:  new Crock-Pot.

Was this a reason to celebrate?  Or was it no big deal?

Neither, my friends.

This became a capital-D Decision.  I prayed about it.  I read about it.  I scouted prices online.

Then I stood in that aisle with Jeopardy music ringing in my head, clocking the ridiculous amount of time I stared blankly at slow cookers.  Who knew there were so many choices to be made?

Oval or round?

Which brand?

6 quart or 7 quart?

How many programming options did I want?

Was I willing to pay $80 for a slow cooker that would not only prepare delicious meals for me but clearly should also vacuum and do the dishes? (I mean, for $80 it needs to do something incredible.)

I waffled.

I waivered.

I see-sawed.

It was agonizing.  Finally, my Wise Inner Voice held an intervention of sorts and talked my troubled, indecisive soul down off the ledge.

You need a Crock-Pot.  This is not choosing a career, a college or who to marry.  For crying aloud, you are simply choosing a relatively inexpensive cooking tool for your home. Just pick something.

So, I did.  I wanted a Crock Pot with clamps on the lid so I could carry it to church potlucks without spilling soup all over the inside of my minivan.

Programmable would be helpful when I’m out all day and I need the slow cooker to start at noon.

Awesome.  I had officially made a decision.

Until I got home.  And, that Crock Pot sat in its box.   A week later it is still sitting taped up in the original packaging on my kitchen floor.

Because….what if I change my mind?

What if I find a better deal?

What if I made a bad choice?

I am paralyzed by indecision.  It is a daily occurrence in my crazy life for me to be trapped by what if’s, possibilities and the pursuit of what is right, wise, and perfect.

Do I want red or blue?  Small or medium?  The park or the zoo?  Soup or a sandwich?  To watch a movie or read a book?

Yes. No.  Maybe?

I.  Do.  Not.  Know.

And when I do decide, I evaluate and criticize that decision, living in a perpetual state of regret and self-condemnation.

I knew I shouldn’t have bought that Crock-Pot.  What a stupid decision.  What’s wrong with me?

So, this is the prison of indecision I inhabit, just four walls holding in my kind of crazy.  I’m a cowering shadow, afraid of one false move or one bad decision that will disappoint God’s heart.

God says I can ask Him anything.  So, I do.  I pray for wisdom and guidance for every possible decision, including Crock-Pots.

No lightning strikes, though.  No neon arrow points to the right choice.

But here’s what I need to learn.

Sometimes it’s okay to just choose a Crock-Pot.  The world isn’t going to explode if I go with the oval one or the other brand.

Not every decision is a life or death matter of discerning God’s will.

Sometimes a Crock-Pot is just a Crock-Pot.

Sure, I’ll sometimes make the perfect decision.

And, at times I’ll just need to break off the chains of regret.  So, things didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped.  It’s in the past now.  Time to let it go and make a new choice on a new day.

As Paul writes:

 Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead14 I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14 HCSB).

After all, God still loves me. He gives fresh mercy with each new day.  His grace covers my every flaw, foible, and failure (regardless of my choice of Crock-Pot).

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.

My kid found the kryptonite to bring down Supermom

My daughter climbed into the minivan after school and nailed me with Mom-guilt before she even sat down and buckled on her seatbelt.

“Mom, why didn’t you come to National School Lunch Day and have lunch with me like all the other moms?”

2 corinthians 12

photo by Nataliia Kelsheva , 123rf.com

I sucked in my breath and battled the personal demons of fear of failure, perfectionism, and people-pleasing like I was fighting a sneak attack from a three-headed monster.

This beloved child of mine was essentially throwing kryptonite at me and bringing Supermom to her knees.

We had talked about this.  I had sat these girls down at the kitchen table and explained to them that I didn’t like to come on the ever-popular National School Lunch Day when the cafeteria was crowded and loud and it wasn’t a good day for me to come this year, anyway.

I have lunch in the school cafeteria with each of my girls every single month on our own ‘special’ day of my own choosing when it fits with our schedule and when we can actually sit and enjoy each other’s company without shouting over the ambient noise of 150 kids plus their parents and grandparents.

In fact, it was on my calendar to have lunch with this very same child just two days later.

But she nailed me with disappointment anyway.

It nagged at me persistently all afternoon even though I knew what she wanted of me wasn’t fair or right or true.

Still I felt the weight of condemnation:

A good mom would have gone to National School Lunch day.

You disappointed her.

You just need to try harder, do more, be more.

Few things cripple the heart of a perfectionist like fear of disappointing your child.

(Or fear of messing them up so much they’ll spend their entire adult life in counseling.  Or never move out of your house and lead a healthy adult life.  There’s that.)

We’re desperately terrified of failing at this.  We know God gave us these precious gifts and from the moment that pregnancy test line appears, we feel the full weight of this responsibility.

Then you hold that newborn life in your hands in a hospital room in the dark of that first night without sleep and you know how desperate you are for God’s help to do this right.

But I read this in Courtney DeFeo’s book, In This House We Will Giggle:

“I don’t want to be Jesus for my kids; I just want to draw them close to Him. I don’t need to be perfect, because He already is… I have to remind myself daily that God offers grace.  Yes, we are going to mess up.  We will not, cannot, get all this parenting stuff just right.  But God fills in the gaps and gives us tremendous grace and mercy along the road.”

That grace fills up my mercy-starved lungs so I can breathe again.

Sometimes I need to let the guilt go.

I need to let the perfection go.

I don’t need to be Jesus for my kids.

In fact, if I try to be Jesus to them, I’ll block their view and they won’t see Christ at all ’cause my bumbling shadow is in the way.

I’m spending this month pursuing the presence of Christ by learning to Abandon Perfection.

Because as long as I keep up the pretense of being perfect, I can’t collapse into the grace-filled arms of my Savior—not as a woman, not as a mom.

And grace is what I need.

I read in Scripture about the woman who splashed that expensive perfume all over the dusty feet of Christ.  Those self-righteous men at the table criticized her offering and mocked her worship.

But Jesus said,

Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to meShe has done what she could (Mark 14:6, 8).

All those Pinterest boards tell me hundreds of ways I need to be a better mom.

The blog posts overwhelm me with plans and programs and ideas.

The parenting magazines show me everything I’m doing wrong.

The Facebook pictures show everyone else doing it right.

But that’s not life.  That’s not real life anyway. That’s the suffocation of perfectionism, impossible standards, guilt and failure.

Ann Voskamp says:

Perfectionism isn’t a fruit of the spirit…Joy is.

Oh, if there’s anything I want it’s the Joy of Jesus in this home.

And here’s the joy I find:  I don’t need to be perfect.

I just need to give what I have and do what I can and bring these kids to Jesus.

I’m not enough.  I’m not perfect.

But He is.

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 Abandon Perfection?

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