VBS for Grown-Ups: Family and Friends Help Us

All week long I’m thinking about the Bible points for our Vacation Bible School and what they mean for adults.  This week will be a mix of some old and some new as I share these lessons.

Today at Kingdom Rock VBS (Group Publishing), we’re learning: Family and Friends Help Us…Stand Strong!kingdom-rock-logo-hi-res

1 Thessalonians 5:11  “So encourage each other and build each other up”
Adapted from “We’ve Got to Pray,” originally published November 26, 2012

I saw it when I took my kids to the zoo.

We walked through the darkened reptile house and stopped at every single window trying to find the tomato frog, the pancake turtle, the boa, the green tree snake, the cotton mouth.  Sometimes we stared carefully through the glass for minutes, examining every leaf and rock, trying not to give up.

Occasionally, the family in front of us helpfully pointed out the camouflaged creature and we passed the news along: “There he is…do you see him?  On the big tree in the back.”

My older daughters patiently pointed out lizard after lizard, snake after snake for their three-year-old sister and waited for her to follow their pointing fingers until she could exclaim, “Oh, I see him!” with a giggle.

And then, when she needed to be given a boost to see the meerkats in the Africa exhibit, my youngest daughter didn’t even need to ask for a boost.  Without a second’s pause, her older sister hoisted her up onto the shelf and held her while she peered against the glass.

As we finished for the day, I–the super-planner, never-spontaneous mom— actually gave my kids permission to run and play in the fountains with the other kids.  The sun had finally warmed up the day and maybe it was crazy and thoroughly impractical of me, but I sat on the bench while my daughters splashed, ran and giggled.

Even then, I saw it.  My three-year-old looking around, not seeing me, and her older sisters bringing her to where I sat.  Then, as they played, they led her by the hand, they smoothed her wet hair away from her face, they called her over to join them.

It wasn’t a burden to help.  It was a joy, to be the big sister, the one who could be depended on, the cheerful face, the kind voice and the strong arms that a little sister needed to feel love010d and safe.

This….was….beautiful.

And there I was, sitting in those benches around the zoo fountains just watching my daughters.

They were teaching me that day, teaching me how to be the bigger sister.  Teaching me how to come alongside others who are in need, others who need a boost, others who need a friendly smile and someone to notice their lostness and lead them to a Savior.

But they also taught me how to be the younger sister.  How to trust others and the helping hands they offer.  How not to give up and despair when the blessing is out of reach or I can’t see the hope camouflaged among the mess.

Too often we try to go it alone out of pride, or shame, or inferiority, or just not knowing where to turn.  We could sit there at our kitchen tables by ourselves with our Bible and prayer journal and pray.

Yet, Scripture reminds us of the power of praying together.

When Esther prepared to enter King Xerxes’s presence uninvited, placing her life in jeopardy in order to save her people from mass genocide, she didn’t just pray on her own.

She organized a nationwide prayer meeting, instructing all the Jews of Susa to “fast for me.  Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day.  My maids and I will do the same…” (Esther 4:16 NLT).

Her story isn’t one of a lone heroine rising to face an enemy.  She trusted in the advice, counsel, encouragement and prayers of her godly cousin Mordecai and depended on the intercession of her people.  Without it, maybe she wouldn’t have stood before the king and the Jews would have been slaughtered.

Jesus didn’t just fall to the ground in the Garden of Gethsemane alone as he waited for his betrayer to arrive with an army of soldiers and an unwelcome kiss.  He took along “Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed.  He told them, ‘My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death.  Stay here and keep watch with me” (Matthew 26:37-38).

Paul, who seemed so confident and capable in ministry and who always seemed content and able to rejoice despite circumstances, wasn’t afraid to ask the church in Ephesus to “pray for me, too.  Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan…” (Ephesians 6:19 NLT).

God brings us others because He didn’t design us to walk through the dark places alone.  He created us for community and formed shoulders to help carry burdens and hands to hold hands.  He meant for family and friends to help us stand strong…and for us to help others do the same.

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 November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Loving with Kisses, Band-Aids, and so much more

I fought the good fight.

I lost.

Every one of my daughters went through the Band-Aid stage and maybe still haven’t outgrown it.006

They fall for the magic of the Band-Aid for all bumps, bruises, minor aches, pains, and scratches.

I gave speeches and endured the tantrums.

You don’t need a Band-Aid for any casualty that doesn’t involve an open wound and significant blood loss.  That’s what I tell them in my all-knowing Mom-voice.

But still they cried and screamed about the unendurable pain and suffering with all the logic and reasoning of a thoroughly traumatized two-year-old.  Finally, in exasperation I handed them what was essentially a sticker to pop over a bruise.

They were miraculously cured.  No more pain or sobbing.  In fact, the impact of the Band-Aid was immediate.  It didn’t even need to contact their skin; the simple sight of me snatching the box down from the cabinet calmed them down instantly.

Maybe it wasn’t the Band-Aid they needed; I know this.  Perhaps it was the acknowledgement: I see you hurting.  I’m tending to this need.  I’m not going to leave you here aching alone, wounds sore, pain throbbing. 

This is, after all, why Mom-kisses on the tiniest of boo-boos are where the miracle cures begin.  Because the love and attention and the simply doing something–anything– says, “I love you,” louder than any three words can.

And this is the Mom-life, the life of nurses, care providers, teachers,  grandmas, and true friends.  It’s saying, “I care about you,” and meaning it at night when it costs you sleep and during the day when it costs you patience.

It means never pouring a cup of tea or a soda and drinking it all down yourself.  It means spending all day putting other people first and scheduling every moment of your life around the schedules of other people.

“Motherhood is the big-leagues of self-sacrifice.” That’s what Rachel Jankovic wrote recently.

And this is the sacrifice, she tells me, that God finds such a sweet-smelling aroma.  It’s when we’re laying ourselves down and offering that life to others, burning up selfishness on the altar as our worship to Him.

Really, in the end, shouldn’t I rejoice over those moments when a kiss and a Band-Aid are all it took to comfort and assuage?  This world pesters and pounds, and wounds aren’t always so superficial and easy-to-heal.  Sometimes they dig deep.  Sometimes they fester and infect; they spread and ache long after we’ve bandaged over them.

So our calling becomes this: loving others enough to care about the depth of the pain and not just covering over with a Band-Aid when they need so much more.

Sure, we could snatch that trusty and true box down from the cabinet shelf and toss a sticky bandage over a hurt.  We could rush this and move on.  All better.  Stop your crying.  No need to fuss.  Don’t you see the Band-Aid I’ve slapped on your skin?

This is what Queen Esther did, unknowingly, of course.  She heard of her cousin Mordecai’s distress.  How he had torn apart his clothes and now sat at the city gate, covered over with burlap and ashes, wailing with loud bitterness.

She responded with concern, but without listening and understanding.  Yes, she essentially snatched down the box of Band-Aids and sent one his way:  “She sent clothes for Mordecai to wear so he could take off his sackcloth, but he did not accept them” (Esther 4:4 HCSB).

That’s what she thought would help, just superficial care.  Change your clothes.  Stop that mourning, Mordecai, and everything will be well.

But he needed so much more.  He needed her to put her life on the line for her entire people by interceding with the king.  Mordecai needed self-sacrifice, unselfishness, and humility.  A change of clothes simply wasn’t enough.

When we love, we’re willing to tend with care also: to take the time, to make the time, to thrust our hands into a hemorrhaging wound, if necessary, and become a right bloody mess in order to stop the bleeding out.

Jesus didn’t leave us desperately sick and dying.  If he had only healed some physical hurts, if he had simply taught some important truths, if he had solely righted a few social injustices, he would have given Band-Aid care for a terminal disease.

Yet, Jesus did more, sacrificing His life for ours, because he knew we needed radical intervention to save our dying selves.

And then He asks us to live this life of love:  

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34 NIV).

Loving with Band-Aids some days.  Loving with time and attention on others.  Loving with messy healing and laying ourselves down at times.

But loving like Jesus always.

Happy Mother’s Day, National Nurses Week, and Teacher Appreciation Week to all of you!!!
Thank you for all your care and sacrifice for others.

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

Cookies And Humble Pie

We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won’t need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to call attention to their shining- they just shine. ~
D.L. Moody

It was, perhaps, an odd question for my daughter to ask while we were making cookies.

“Why, Mom, did Haman want to kill all of the Jewish people?”

We were rolling out the dough to make Hamentaschen, the traditional cookie for Purim.  It’s a celebration described in the book of Esther, commemorating how God delivered His people from annihilation through the bravery and obedience of a young queen who put herself in danger and stood up for her people.

So, we make these cookies almost every year, roll out the dough, cut the circles, fill them with apricot and strawberry preserves and then shape into a triangle.

Covered in flour and sticky with preserves, I may not have been in the best shape to answer deep philosophical, spiritual, and historical questions.  And yet, what better time than when your child asks and when Scripture isn’t just read in a cold and academic way, but rolled out into cookies?

Why would one man strive so hard to wipe out an entire people group?  Why did he hate the Jews so much?

This is what she asked.

There’s a historical answer to the question that partly explains Haman’s genocidal mania.  Scripture tells us repeatedly that this Haman who hated God’s people was an “Agagite’ (Esther 3:1).

He was a descendant of King Agag, leader of the Amalekites, who was captured and ultimately killed by the prophet Samuel after the Amalekites were destroyed in battle (1 Samuel 15).

This was a long-standing family vendetta festering over generations.

But there’s something more in these ten short chapters of Scripture.

Pride.

Haman was a constant self-promoter, always on the lookout for ways to gain honor, admiration, acclaim, notice, advancement, reward….even worship.

In fact:

“All the king’s officials would bow down before Haman to show him respect whenever he passed by, for so the king had commanded. But Mordecai refused to bow down or show him respect” (Esther 3:2).

How it irked Haman every time he walked by the king’s gate to see Mordecai’s head held high!

It seems preposterous, this prideful Haman, expecting others to bow down to him…Thinking that whenever the king rewarded anyone, it would be him…Thinking he had the right to wipe out an entire people group…Thinking he deserved to hang another man on the gallows simply because he was annoyed.

But oh how this world entices us to a similar pride.  Maybe we don’t expect people to bow down to us.  Maybe it’s not that obvious or extreme.

Still, we are lured into this lie that if we’ll ever get anywhere it has to be on our own.  We need to fight and scramble and self-promote, grab what we can get and push ourselves onto others so they’ll notice us.

Pride tricks us and tempts us and takes right over sometimes.

But then there’s Mordecai, who saved the king’s life from an assassination plot and instead of using that to”get ahead” or win reward, he simply awoke the next day and went to work again. And then the next day.  And the day after that.

Even later, after the king honored Mordecai, this humble man “returned to the palace gate,” clocking in for another day on the job.

Mordecai chose simple faithfulness.

His was the quiet life of obedience and serving God in the day in-and day out, the grand opportunities and the daily grind.  It was his humility that made room for God to use Him.

The Psalms reflect God’s passion for the humble:

Though the Lord is great, he cares for the humble, but he keeps his distance from the proud
(Psalm 138:6 NLT)

The Lord supports the humble, but he brings the wicked down into the dust.
(Psalm 147:6 NLT)

For the Lord delights in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.
(Psalm 149:4 NLT)

Pride chains us down to a captivity of our own creation.

It’s freeing, though, when we realize that “success” doesn’t depend so much on our own striving, but on simply obeying God’s call and trusting Him with the results.

It’s freeing to look past our own lives and choosing instead to reach out to others, to lift them up and be their encouragement.

It’s freeing to listen more than we talk.

It’s the freedom of making this life less about us and all about Him and serving others.

You can check out the recipe we use to make Hamentaschen here!