The Art of Celebrating

“Mom, can we have a milkshake because  it’s Tuesday?”

We do celebrations in our family.  We celebrate first days and last days, pick-me-up treats on the hardest days, victory treats when we have a big win and  even sometimes just for trying.because we know trying requires courage.

My daughter has a competition this weekend, but I’ve already let her request her “celebration dinner,” whether she comes home with first place or last place.  We’re not saluting the prize, we’re saluting the effort, the time, the commitment, and being done, of course.

Our celebrations aren’t elaborate or Pinterest-worthy.  We make a special batch of cookies or stop in at 7-11 for a Slurpie, cook up a special dinner or maybe even get milkshakes for a “big” treat.  We “party” with family movie night and a bowl of popcorn or head to  a beach or a playground for some afternoon fun after a week of testing at school.  I’ve even been known to happy  dance in the kitchen occasionally, (which is instantly embarrassing to my children).

But that day, my daughter  climbed in the minivan after school and asked for a treat because it was Tuesday.

I finally gave in and asked, “Why are we celebrating Tuesday?”

“Oh, it’s just that Tuesdays are really busy days for  us and I think we just need a treat because it’s Tuesday and that’s all.”

Well, maybe we’re stretching our rejoicing habits a bit too far if we’re now celebrating specific days of the week just because they exist on the calendar.

I tease my daughter gently and call her the “queen of treats.”

Can we celebrate because we had  a good day?  Can we have a treat because we had a bad day?   Can we have a treat because…it’s Tuesday?

We all have a good laugh because this is who we are:  We’re celebrators and rejoicers.  We’re joy-seekers.

I love that God gives reason to rejoice.  Not just that, He compels us to rejoice.

In Romans, Paul tells us that we have peace with God because of Jesus. We’re justified by His blood and saved from  the wrath of God.  He reminds us we were God’s enemies and yet, because of Jesus’s death, we’re now reconciled with this perfect, holy  God.

But Paul tells us what is the greater thing.  We recognize His holiness and our need for  reconciliation.  We recognize we were enemies of God and yet now we have peace with God.  We recognize all of that….

and then…

we rejoice.

He says:

More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Romans 5:11 ESV).

We rejoice because Jesus has done the work.  We believe in Him as our Savior, we place our faith in Him as our Lord, and He has reconciled us to the Father.

So, we don’t need to drag around shame; we can lift up praise.    We focus more on our Savior than we focus on our sin.

We are saved.

The note in my Bible says, “Christians GO BEYOND avoiding God’s wrath and actually rejoice in the same God who would pour out wrath on them were it not for Christ” (ESV Study Bible).

So, let’s go beyond. 

Our faith is about more than just avoiding the wrath of God; it’s celebrating the good news:  Jesus made us righteous by covering us with His righteousness.

And, God Himself rejoices.  Maybe recapturing the image of God and all of His joy reminds us to have joy, too.

 

He rejoices over His people:

I will rejoice in Jerusalem
and be glad in my people.
The sound of weeping and crying
will no longer be heard in her (Isaiah 65:19)

and He sings over us with gladness:

The Lord your God is among you,
a warrior who saves.
He will rejoice over you with gladness.
He will be quiet in his love.
He will delight in you with singing.”  (Zephaniah 3:17 CSB). 

We are unworthy, and yet He loves us.  He finds joy and takes delight in us.

And it is His joy, His deep-hearted gladness, that we can cling to when we’re overwhelmed by our own sin.

In the book of Nehemiah, the people were moved to mourn when they heard Ezra the priest read from the law.  They saw all of their unworthiness and all the reasons for their exile.

Nehemiah and the other leaders redirected them:

This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep…today is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, because the joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:9, 10). 

Rejoice today.  Celebrate.  Praise Him.

He loves you.   He died to save you.  Her rejoices over you. Such love deserves a celebration.

Joy and April Fools and Finding New Strength

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Two years ago, I glued googly eyes to all of the food in our refrigerator, swapped my kids’ clothes around into different dressers, and stuffed toilet paper into their shoes.10152562_10202409425731544_115203408_n

Last year, I swapped out all of their regular shoes for doll shoes and acted like they shrunk over night.

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I drew terrified faces on the hard-boiled eggs I packed in their lunch box with the message “Don’t eat me!”

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And, I lined up their stuffed animals in the bathroom as if they were all waiting for the toilet.

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This year, I’m sending my kids to school with gummy worms hanging out of the apples in their lunches.

And, I’ve turned all the pictures and knick knacks and everything I can get my hands on upside down in the night so they wake up to an upside-down house.

I hate pranks.  It’s just not my kind of humor.

But I knew my kids would get a kick out of my April Fool’s fun, especially my one girl.  Maybe my other kids would laugh at mom’s silliness, but this girl of mine would cackle.

So, I’ve been lightening up a little and celebrating April Fool’s Day as a mom.

It’s because I love my kids and I love this wacky, quirky, silly-joke-telling, comic-book-reading girl of mine.

Maybe she teaches me a little how to choose joy.

This world can batter us and beat us with depressing news and overwhelming sorrow.

But we have Good News.

God Himself came to earth in human flesh, received the punishment we deserve for our sin, died in our place and rose again, offering us eternal life with Him in heaven.

This Good News should root itself deep into our hearts and make our lives blossom with joy.

It’s an excitement that maybe the world just doesn’t get.  Maybe they don’t understand.

Maybe we miss it sometimes ourselves.  We talk about Easter or new life in Christ like it’s blah, blah, blah….words in a book, something that happened a long time ago, information for our head never impacting our heart and life.

Unfortunately, we become immune over time to the message’s impact.  We forget the joy.  We forget the wonder and excitement.

And when we imagine Jesus Himself healing people and teaching them, so often we picture Him as a melancholy Savior, all staid, straight-laced and serious.

Surely, though, he must have smiled a bit as Nicodemus puzzled out the meaning of “born again.”

When Jesus deftly sidestepped the theological traps laid by the Pharisees and Sadducees, I imagine He did it with an internal grin.

As He delivered the revolutionary Sermon on the Mount, Jesus could not have been a boring monotone preacher.  He held the crowd’s attention for two solid chapters worth of teaching in Matthew 5-7.  There must have been some joy there!

And I hardly think children would climb all over Jesus’ lap if He frowned and scowled and scolded.

Jesus is a joy-filled Savior teaching us to live with the joy of God’s presence.

Not that our life circumstances always make joy easy.  Sometimes we feel like our “cup runneth over” and sometimes we feel like our cup is all poured out.  What then?

Nehemiah faced a crowd of Israelites who felt too overcome by their sin, too full of repentant sorrow to feel joy. Yet he told them,

“Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

We have our weak days, our weary days, our times of feeling out of control, confused, worried uncertain, scared, sad, and broken into a million pieces.

Yet, the joy of the Lord is our strength.

It’s not the fake, paste-on-a-smile joy or the pretend-like-the-world-is-perfect joy.

It’s living fully confident that God is sovereign.  We are in His hands and His hands can be trusted.

That’s what gives us strength to face each day, that quiet assurance of His love and His might.

So, we rejoice together when we consider the Good News of the Gospel.

We rejoice in God’s presence, in His accessibility to us at all times, in His compassion, in His faithfulness and unfailing love.

We rejoice in the journey of our faith, knowing that wherever He takes us, He is present there with us, even in darkness and long journeys through the valley.

Still we have joy.

“always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4, NLT)

Originally published 4/1/2015

Here’s the Good News

nehemiah8“Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions”
Psalm 45:7

Last year, I glued googly eyes to all of the food in our refrigerator, swapped my kids’ clothes around into different dressers, and stuffed toilet paper into their shoes.10152562_10202409425731544_115203408_n

This year, I swapped out all of their regular shoes for doll shoes and acted like they shrunk over night.

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I drew terrified faces on the hard-boiled eggs I packed in their lunch box with the message “Don’t eat me!”

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And, I lined up their stuffed animals in the bathroom as if they were all waiting for the toilet.

IMG_3501

I hate pranks.  It’s just not my kind of humor.

But I knew my kids would get a kick out of my April Fool’s fun, especially my one girl.  Maybe my other kids would laugh at mom’s silliness, but this girl of mine would cackle.

So, I’ve been lightening up a little and celebrating April Fool’s Day as a mom.

It’s because I love my kids and I love this wacky, quirky, silly-joke-telling, comic-book-reading girl of mine.

Maybe she teaches me a little how to choose joy.

This world can batter us and beat us with depressing news and overwhelming sorrow.

But we have Good News.

God Himself came to earth in human flesh, received the punishment we deserve for our sin, died in our place and rose again, offering us eternal life with Him in heaven.

This Good News should root itself deep into our hearts and make our lives blossom with joy.

It’s an excitement that maybe the world just doesn’t get.  Maybe they don’t understand.

Maybe we miss it sometimes ourselves.  We talk about Easter or new life in Christ like it’s blah, blah, blah….words in a book, something that happened a long time ago, information for our head never impacting our heart and life.

Unfortunately, we become immune over time to the message’s impact.  We forget the joy.  We forget the wonder and excitement.

And when we imagine Jesus Himself healing people and teaching them, so often we picture Him as a melancholy Savior, all staid, straight-laced and serious.

Surely, though, he must have smiled a bit as Nicodemus puzzled out the meaning of “born again.”

When Jesus deftly sidestepped the theological traps laid by the Pharisees and Sadducees, I imagine He did it with an internal grin.

As He delivered the revolutionary Sermon on the Mount, Jesus could not have been a boring monotone preacher.  He held the crowd’s attention for two solid chapters worth of teaching in Matthew 5-7.  There must have been some joy there!

And I hardly think children would climb all over Jesus’ lap if He frowned and scowled and scolded.

Jesus is a joy-filled Savior teaching us to live with the joy of God’s presence.

Not that our life circumstances always make joy easy.  Sometimes we feel like our “cup runneth over” and sometimes we feel like our cup is all poured out.  What then?

Nehemiah faced a crowd of Israelites who felt too overcome by their sin, too full of repentant sorrow to feel joy. Yet he told them,

“Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

We have our weak days, our weary days, our times of feeling out of control, confused, worried uncertain, scared, sad, and broken into a million pieces.

Yet, the joy of the Lord is our strength.

It’s not the fake, paste-on-a-smile joy or the pretend-like-the-world-is-perfect joy.

It’s living fully confident that God is sovereign.  We are in His hands and His hands can be trusted.

That’s what gives us strength to face each day, that quiet assurance of His love and His might.

So, we rejoice together when we consider the Good News of the Gospel.

We rejoice in God’s presence, in His accessibility to us at all times, in His compassion, in His faithfulness and unfailing love.

We rejoice in the journey of our faith, knowing that wherever He takes us, He is present there with us, even in darkness and long journeys through the valley.

Still we have joy.

“always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4, NLT)

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.

Recycling Crayons for Operation Christmas Child (and a lesson in restoration)

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

Broken crayons drive me crazy.

So do crayons with the paper torn off.

And, while we’re on the subject, Play-Doh with all the colors mixed together.

Every year my daughter and I choose a project to make for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.  We like to work all year long on crafting something with our own hands and praying over the kids from all over the world who will receive our little gifts.  Then, we use our items as part of our church-wide packing party to fill as many shoeboxes as possible!

This year instead of making bracelets or knitting, we decided to use a resource we have in abundance.

Broken crayons!

And, oh, it makes this momma’s heart so happy to recycle all those crayon nubs and paperless crayons into something colorful and beautiful and whole!

Here’s what we’re up to this year:

We collected the Crayola remnants and peeled off any remaining wrappers.


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We filled silicone baking trays shaped in hearts and stars with the jumble of brokenness and melted the crayons in a 275° oven.

 

After the wax cooled completely, we popped out beautiful new rainbow crayons.

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We made something fun, colorful, and unique out of the old, broken, and worn out and, as we did, I rejoiced in the way God restores us and transforms us, melts down brokenness, and makes us whole in Him.

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.

Like David, we long for God to “restore my soul” (Psalm 23:3) and “restore to me the joy of my salvation” (Psalm 51:12).

But so often we think that means 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 celebrated with a march through those rebuilt gates, starting once again with what many 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.

And yet, this wasn’t exactly the same as what they had lost; 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 loving-kindness and mercy.

We want the same as the good old days.  Many times, however, He gives us more than we had before or even something better.

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, crafting us into wholeness with His own patient hand.

For any local friends, we’ll be working on our crayon project all the way through the summer.  If you have your own broken, dull, paperless crayons that you don’t want to use any more, we’d love to have them!  No need to peel the paper off or anything; we’ll take care of all of that.  Thanks so much for helping us with our project!

 

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….

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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

Made it to the bus with 30 seconds to spare

“I think it’s Career Day at school today,” she announces.

“No, I think it’s tomorrow,” her older sister explains.  “I wrote it in my agenda.”  She pulls out the book as evidence and shows us where she penciled it in.

“See….Dress like what you want to be when you grow up…. That’s tomorrow.”

“Who told you it was tomorrow?” I ask.

“My teacher.  She had it written on the board like this and I copied it in my book like she said.”

“Okay,” I turn to the other sister, “did your teacher tell you it was today?”

“No, but all the smart kids in my class except for me heard it on the announcements and they said it was today.”  She lists the name of every “smart kid” in her class that she can think of.  It’s a long list.

I turn back to the oldest girl.  “Did you hear it on the announcements?”

“No, but my teacher said….”

We’re right back where we started.

Easy enough, though.  We have the largest dress-up collection on the East Coast.  (I really need to check into whether we can get into the Guinness Book of World Records or something).

I ask the daughter who thinks Career Day is today (as in starting 20 minutes from now when the bus will pull up in front of our house) “Okay, what do you want to dress up as?”

A magician. Or maybe a clown. Or maybe a rabbit who has his own children’s show and entertains kids on TV.

Magician it is.

I find the black cape.  I scramble through the largest dress-up collection on the East Coast and find the hat (a little crushed perhaps, but still a hat).  I shuffle through the magic kit and pull out the magic wand.

Bam.  Magician’s outfit.

Then I fold it all up, pop it in the backpack and declare the solution to our entire morning crisis:  If Career Day is today, you can wear the magician’s outfit today.  If it’s not, keep it in your backpack until tomorrow.

I then zip up the backpacks, hand them to my daughters and toss open the front door.psalm16

It’s raining.  I grab umbrellas and hand them out.

We make it to the bus with 30 seconds to spare.

Thirty whole seconds.

Because we’re awesome like that.

The sky is that curious ashen white of winter and the rain drips rhythmically on the roof as I flop down onto the sofa, cradling my baby boy close and holding my Kindle in the other hand.

I’m looking at dishes in the sink and the aftermath of the morning whirlwind of pajamas, blankets, ponytail holders, brushes, and more.

But then I open that Kindle up and there’s the Bible.  It tells me right there that even when the world was a nothingness of empty void, “The Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2).

Maybe that’s how I feel right then, like His Spirit hovers over the start of this new day.  Like He’s present and waiting for the invitation not just to enter in, but to roll up His sleeves and nehemiah8create something beautiful–something “good”— in the middle of the noise and mess and all the busyness.

Yesterday, my four-year-old pantomimed what looked to me like an outfielder in baseball, dropping a mitt to the ground and snatching up a ball.

As she did, she said, “God scooped up the dust of the earth and “whooo” blew His breath and made man.”

Just like that, she says it, like the sing-songy rhythm of a well-choreographed routine.

I read it this morning again, “God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7).

I take a deep breath, letting that air fill me up after the suffocation of the morning stress, and I pray—

Lord, don’t let it just be a day when Your Spirit hovers over my life.  Breathe Your breath right into me and let me feel Your presence.

Because even on the hard days, the sad days, the crazy days, ,the hectic days, the stressful days, the fun days, the unexpected days….

You reveal the path of life to me;
in Your presence is abundant joy;
in Your right hand are eternal pleasures
(Psalm 16:11 HCSB).

And you know something else, His presence isn’t just the  joy I need right here in the middle of  a rainy winter day after a morning rush.

It’s this:

For the joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10 NIV),

In His presence, there is abundant joy, and that joy is the strength I so desperately 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 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 © 2013 Heather King

VBS for Grown-Ups: The Bible Helps 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.

Tonight at Kingdom Rock VBS (Group Publishing), we’re learning: The Bible Help Us…Stand Strong!

“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet…and a light for my path” Psalm 119:105
Originally published as Dumbo Always Makes Me Cry, July 25, 2012

Dumbo gets me ever time.  It’s the one Disney movie I remember bawling at as a kid. I haven’t gotten over it either, not after all these years.

Once one of my girls found a storybook at the library about Dumbo.  She checked it out and then climbed up in my lap at home so I could read it to her. At first it was easy.  Baby elephant with big ears . . . Blah blah blah . . .

Everyone makes fun of him, mocking and taunting (sniffle, sniffle).

The mommy tries to defend him and they lock her up.  Dumbo gets dragged away from her, their trunks locked in embrace until the last possible second . . .

Someone please pass the tissues!  I just can’t do this story without tears.

In fact, it’s hard for me to do this story at all.  I sent the book back to the library ahead of time and I can’t bring myself to watch the movie.  It’s just not worth the blubbering, red-faced mess I become.

Sure it’s a cartoon elephant who ultimately flies and makes friends, but it’s still a child hurt by the cruelty of others and taken away from his mama!

In Scripture, we see people reacting even more intensely than me snatching tissues out of the box at the slightest reminder of Dumbo’s story.

Not because of a fictional scenario, though. They were hearing God’s Word.

Eighteen-year-old Josiah, for example, was king of Judah when a member of his court went to the temple to perform some administrative tasks.  There he met the High Priest, who announced that he “happened” to have found the Book of the Law.

So, the royal secretary read it and then read it aloud to King Josiah:

“When the king heard what was written in the book, God’s Revelation, he ripped his robes in dismay. And then he called for Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Acbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the royal secretary, and Asaiah the king’s personal aide. He ordered them all: “Go and pray to God for me and for this people—for all Judah! Find out what we must do in response to what is written in this book that has just been found!” (2 Kings 22:11-13 MSG).

Josiah knew that God’s Word requires a response.

In the same way, when the exiles returned to Jerusalem and stood inside the rebuilt walls of the city, Ezra the High Priest read the Book of the Law of Moses to everyone.  Men and women and kids old enough to understood stood from morning until lunch time listening to him read Scripture aloud.

Just God’s Word.  And nothing else.  For hours and hours.

They didn’t yawn, tune it out, roll their eyes, poke their neighbor, or skip attending so they could do chores or kick back with the latest release of ancient Middle-eastern epic poetry.

Instead, “Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen,’ lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground” (Nehemiah 8:5-6).

At first, the people were filled with remorse and driven to repent.  Yet, Nehemiah (their governor) and the Levites (their priests) encouraged them to celebrate instead:

And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them” (Nehemiah 8:12 ESV).

Their response to Scripture was emotional and intense.

There was true repentance and grief over how their sins had broken the heart of God.005

There was a hunger for more and the willingness to stay as long as it took to hear what God had to say.

There was passionate worship with shouts of “Amen” and bowing low to the ground in awe of Mighty God.

There was joy and celebration because “they had understood the words that were declared to them.”

 How do you respond to God’s Word?

If we pick it up and read it with unemotional disinterest or with a bored and distracted mind we are missing it!

We are missing out on all the power of Scripture to revolutionize our hearts and minds, driving us to repentance, inciting us to intensely passionate worship and filling us with the kind of joy that makes us want to tell everyone what we’ve learned.

Scripture can’t be a mandatory item on our to-do list or an occasional emotional pick-me-up we drag off the shelves and dust off anytime life gets hard.

It’s got to be life and breath and food and drink to us because it holds God’s very own words, so active and relevant in our lives!  As you read, pray and ask God, “How do you want me to respond to this?”

Maybe you’ll need some of my tissues or maybe you’ll dance, but either way you’ll be giving God’s Word the response it deserves and you’ll allow the Bible to be your rock-solid foundation in any circumstance present and future.  The Bible will help you stand strong.

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

VBS for Grown-Ups: Prayer Helps 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: Prayer Help Us…Stand Strong!kingdom-rock-logo-hi-res

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything (Philippians 4:6)
Originally published as “Run to the Throne,” May 6, 2011

“Teach me to run to you like they run to me for every little thing.”  That’s what Caedmon’s Call sings in their song, Sacred.

Yes, that’s true in my house.  I button buttons and zip zippers, diffuse arguments and mediate disputes, kiss bumps and supply Band-Aids for nearly invisible scratches, refill juice cups and find lost toys, help with homework and hard-to-sound-out words.

I answer to “Mom” all day, every day.  And, while at times I would like to sit still for more than five minutes at a time, I love that they turn to me for help.  At some point I know they will feel too grown up to bring all their problems to me.  Or maybe they’ll still come, but their problems will be so big that my supply of Band-Aids and apple juice won’t fix them anymore.

God must love when we turn to Him for help with all of the hopeful innocence that I see in my daughters’ eyes.  We could struggle to solve our troubles in our own strength or we could offer them up to Him—both the life crises and the daily concerns—-giving them over to a God both big enough to handle them and compassionate enough to care about them.

And as we do, we confess belief.  We say, “God I believe that You are Lord over all things, that no situation is too much for Your strength or too small for Your compassion.  I believe that You have saved me and will continue to save me.  I believe that You are Love.”

Years ago, a godly woman gave me this advice: “run to the throne before you run to the phone.”  Before we call on our friends and our own mommas with a problem, we should bring it to the God who can actually solve the problem we’re facing.

Too often we don’t.  We worry, we fret, we gossip, we chatter with others and seek solutions of our own making.

And all along, God’s waiting for us to just bring it all to Him.

Philippians 4:6 says:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

and Ephesians 6:18 says:

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

We are to pray “in everything,” and “on all occasions.”  We should drop to our knees over a health concern or a family in crisis or a daughter’s lost toy.  It’s all too much for us anyway.

That’s what men like Daniel and Nehemiah did.

When King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream no one could interpret, Daniel and his friends plead “for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery” (Daniel 2:18).  When the decree was signed saying no one could pray to any god but the king, Daniel went home in front of an open window and “three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to God, just as he had done before” (Daniel 6:10).

Nehemiah prayed when he heard about the horrible state of the walls surrounding Jerusalem. When the king asked him what he wanted, Nehemiah “prayed to the God of heaven” before giving an answer.  Enemies threatened the work of Nehemiah and his crew, “but we prayed to our God” (Nehemiah 4:9) and when the enemies tried to frighten the Israelite construction team into quitting, Nehemiah prayed to God: “now strengthen my hands” (Nehemiah 6:9).

They went to God with every annoyance, difficulty, burden, sadness, disaster,  enemy, and worry.Image credit: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/photo_5902698_mature-woman-sits-on-the-beach-with-her-head-bowed-and-praying-as-the-sun-sets-on-the-water.html'>sframe / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

At times, I’m overwhelmed by the weight of the requests I’m carrying to the throne.  I’ve been duped by impossible-appearing circumstances into thinking that it’s fruitless to pray any longer.  That there is no hope.  That the marriage is truly dead.  That the housing situation will not be solved.  That the cancer statistics are too certain.  That the job market is too sparse.  That I’ve prayed for so long with no answer, nothing could possibly change now.

A friend confessed this in a whisper to me this week:  “I’m just tired of praying about it.”

I knew exactly what she meant.  Fighting and fighting to have faith for so long, to pray and pray with no evident answer, no release, no deliverance, it makes a body tired.

But we are to “always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”  And God, who is so gracious and compassionate, knows the exact moment when we need to see a glimmer of His light in the dark places and when we need the smallest reminder that He is active and alive where we only see death.

And He does this.  He gives us these glimmers of hope and hints of His glory and it becomes prayer that helps us stand a while longer, stand no matter what, and even stand strong.

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

Summer Plans: Packing a Bag for the Homeless

Memorial Day is past.  This is the last week of school for my kids.  It’s official: Summer is upon us. 

Since that means traveling and visiting cities and playing tourist for many of us, I thought it was a great time to re-post this and remind us all to start stocking up on supplies for homeless care packages.  I shopped the dollar store last week for toiletries and I need just a few more items to finish up.  Please share your ideas of what you’re putting in your bags this year!!

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

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.

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 bagforthehomelesscrackers, 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.  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
  • Comb
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • 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 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

Recalibrating the Measure

I had been wooed by the digital display and the sleek design, but I should have stuck with the tried and true older model.

The new scale promised to be scientifically accurate because of some high-quality triple sensory design. It could track the weight gain and loss of two different people by storing the weigh-in results in its memory.

So I brought it home from the store, opened the package, read the instructions, dropped it down on the floor and stepped on. Then I scowled.

This didn’t seem right.

I tried again a few days later and then after a few more days, I tried again.

According to this handy dandy super scale, I was gaining about a pound a day despite snacks of yogurt and granola, exercise sessions and water.

I could rail about the injustice of the world or blame the metabolism shifts in my 30s, but how could I argue with such a scientifically accurate device?

Finally, I carried out two scales from the cabinet: The old one with the tiny arrow that scalescrolled through the numbers and eventually landed on a miniature line and the new one with the flashing white numbers against a black display.

They were different.  A lot different.  I pushed the digital one around a bit and stepped on and off a few times.

I’d been using a faulty measure.

What else am I using as a faulty basis for my thoughts and emotions, my plans, my faith?

A.W. Tozer wrote: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

This, after all, is our foundation, our measure by which we weigh the world, and the filter through which we understand our circumstances.

But it’s not just what we think that matters, certainly not what we say.  We can confess:

I believe God is faithful.
I believe God can provide.
I believe God forgives me.
I believe God is all-powerful.
I believe God is with me.
I believe God will never abandon me.

All that sounds good and right.  We say what we’re supposed to say.  Sing the words we’re supposed to sing.

We might even think we mean it.

But sometimes we’re really looking at the world through circumstances and emotions.  Slowly, without changing what we’re saying, we’ve still changed what we believe.

The Israelites wandering around the wilderness outside of Egypt professed belief in the God who had led them out of slavery.

When Pharaoh’s army chased them to the edge of the Red Sea, however, they complained: ”Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?” (Exodus 14:11).

When they realized they could no longer shop at the Egyptian grocery stores, they whined:  “you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death” (Exodus 16:3).

And when the desert diet proved restrictive, they remembered: “The fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic” (Numbers 11:5).

They said they believed in God and His miraculous power, but, as Kelly Minter writes in her study on Nehemiah:

“whenever the Israelites faced difficulty in the desert they chose to believe something false about God.  Three of the biggies were that he had abandoned them, withheld from them, or wouldn’t meet their needs” (p. 125).

It is Nehemiah’s prayer, centuries later, that reminds the people of the truth:

You did not abandon them in the wilderness
because of Your great compassion….

You did not withhold Your manna from their mouths,
and You gave them water for their thirst.

You provided for them in the wilderness 40 years
and they lacked nothing (Nehemiah 9:19-21).

But in the middle of the wilderness, with Egypt behind them and the unknown ahead, without a meal plan or a guaranteed buffet, Israel believed false things about God.

And I get that.

It’s hard to see the truth when our eyes are shut tight to the wonder of God or our bad attitude is crowding out the glory from our field of vision.

We’ve decided we’re stuck.
We’ve determined to feel unhappy.
We’ve felt cheated and gypped out of what we really want.

So we just rack up more and more circumstantial evidence, cementing what we feel.

And we believe it.  God can’t use this situation.  God abandoned me here.  God is withholding from me.  God can’t rescue, save or provide.  God doesn’t know what He’s doing.

That’s false evidence, a faulty measure, a shaky foundation.

Today, let’s pray for God’s eye-opening grace, for His perspective, for a reminder of His goodness, for revelations of truth.  Just like Nehemiah did, let’s recount the goodness of God rather than letting our dissatisfaction or hurt determine what we see and what we believe.

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