Return, O My Soul, To Your Rest

psalm-116-7

My daughter and I settled  onto the bus for our overnight trip to New York City.

We each pulled out our books and book lights and enjoyed some reading time as we pulled away from the parking lot and headed out onto the road for our grand adventure.

About an hour into the trip, I pulled out my blanket and little travel pillow and asked my daughter to do the same.  We were, after all, supposed to be sleeping on this bus and we were certainly going to need that sleep since we were hitting the streets of New York City by 6 a.m.

Only, she hadn’t brought her pillow.  She’d left it back at the house.

Oops!

So, I handed mine over (because I love her and I’m her mom) and tried to sleep without it.

Now, I do not sleep in moving vehicles, and this night the odds were particularly against me.

I was in a completely, wonderfully comfortable bus for daytime travel.   Nevertheless, I was still mostly upright, with highway noise for my soundtrack, surrounded by 50 people, and without a pillow.

We shuffled this way and that through the night.  None of us on the bus slept more than an hour or two , and even that was in fits and starts.

At 3:40 that morning, the bus lights flicked on to full strength and we pulled into the New Jersey rest stop where we were scheduled to start the day.  Everyone filed out to use the bathrooms, change our clothes, brush our teeth, and buy coffee (or tea!) from the 24-hour Starbucks.

From then on, it was go, go, go.  Drive around the city.  Eat breakfast at the diner.  Walk through Central Park.  Stroll through the Museum of Art.  Subway back to our bus for lunch and the ride to the hotel.  Quick showers and changes.  Back onto the bus for the ride to the Lincoln Center for a ballet performance.

We had the best time!

Finally, we settled back at the hotel around midnight after being awake for about 35 hours of the last 36 hours.

A bed never felt so good.  The pillows were luxury and the sheets were heaven.

Normally, I hate sleeping away from home and restlessly fidget all night long.

Not that night.  I slept the deep sleep of the truly exhausted.

That same weekend, I read this verse from the Psalmist:

Return, O my soul, to your rest;
    for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you (Psalm 116:7 ESV).

Return to rest.

Right there when I was pushed to the max physically, I needed to know that rest doesn’t entirely depend on circumstances.

Some seasons are stressful and full of huge crises or petty daily annoyances.  Life demands so much of us–sleepless nights while we rock the baby, or work the job, or care for the loved one, or nurse the sick, or more.

Our hearts can be tumbled into pits of anxiety with one phone call, one nasty email, one ridiculous Facebook post, one bank statement or unexpected bill.

Maybe we’re running at full-speed because of blessing and not burden.   We’re packing for the big move or working hard on the big project.

Rest can seem elusive until we remember the truth:

Our rest isn’t in peaceful circumstances or ideal conditions; our rest is in Jesus.

He doesn’t just bring us peace; He is our Peace.

Like the dove that Noah sent out from the ark, we can seek rest in so many places in the big wide world but never find it.  The dove searched throughout the earth for a dry place to set down and only found water, water, and more water.

The bird only found rest when it returned to Noah.

The same is true for us, as well.

Charles Spurgeon wrote:

Noah’s dove found no rest outside the ark, so she returned to it.  In a similar way, my soul has learned today, more fully than ever, that there is no satisfaction to be found in earthly things–only God can give rest to my spirit…they cannot fulfill the desires of my immortal spirit” (Morning and Evening, January 29th).

We may search and search, looking for rest and finding only stormy seas.

Ultimately, we truly find rest by returning not just to the ark, but to our Master.  We return to Jesus.

Like the dove,  we can’t face the night on our own, flapping our wings in the darkness until we’re exhausted.  On our own strength, we’ll drown.

When night looms, when we’re deeply tired, when we realize that nothing else satisfies, we stop trying so hard on our own and release control into His hands.  That is the rest our weary souls need—trusting Jesus because He is so trustworthy.

The ark wasn’t built in a day so don’t give up

This morning, I think: “The ark wasn’t built in a day either.”

I think it as my baby girl (too big to be called “baby,” she tells me) bursts into my room far too early to announce, “Mom, it’s morning time!” And I’m tired.

The ark, remember the ark.

I’m pouring cereal and reviewing ancient China with a girl who is taking her big test today.

I pulled my other girl’s hair back into a ponytail, but it was the wrong kind.  She wanted it differently.  Using her hands, she tries to explain it to me and I’m slow, so I lean down trying to understand and experiment with the brush until I get it just right.

That ark takes time to build.

They’ve dressed and stepped into shoes.  I’ve reminded and reminded them, brush your teeth, grab your back pack, zip your coat.  Hurry!  It’s time!

We huddle at the bus stop with our backs to the February wind and I snuggle close to block them from the strength of the blasts.

Then I whisper a prayer for their day, for their tests and their friends and their obedience and their learning and how proud I am of all their hard work.

Just building an ark here.  Just taking the time.

Because sometimes you wake up tired.  Sometimes you’d rather pull those covers right on up to block out the sun and the cold and sleep away some of the day and lounge away the other half in pajamas and slippers.

Sometimes you just need the reminder that what you are doing has significance and value.

Sometimes you need to know….This Matters.

Even if today isn’t the day you pound the final peg into the ark and the animals step on two-by-two and the rain falls…

Even if you don’t see the final results or immediate success, know that every peg you place and every board you lay has purpose.

It takes about nine months for God to intricately fashion a human life in a womb.
It takes 365 days for the earth to circle that sun, spinning around in its orbit.
It even takes 8 minutes from the sun to stretch its light down to our planet.
And it took decades for Noah to build that ark.

Progress happens over time, seconds and minutes and day after another day of perseverance, dedication and refusing to give up.

How often Noah must have woken up to a new morning and wanted to stop.

Surely there were days it felt impossible to construct a massive floating vessel without power tools and contractors.

Surely the ridicule from the masses and those he considered his closest friends—yes even from his family—must have wearied his soul.

Surely there were moments he just needed God to reassure him that he wasn’t crazy, that he heard correctly, that what he was doing was necessary.

Some days it must have seemed so hard.  Some days maybe he wanted to give up.

Yet, had he given up one decade….one year…one month…one week….one day too soon, had he abandoned the project and left the ark unfinished, it wouldn’t have saved anyone.  God couldn’t use an unfinished ship to rescue, save, and redeem.

God saved him…and us…because “Noah did everything just as God commanded him” (Genesis 5:22).

Just one simple verse; it makes it sound so easy.

But I know the truth.  I know every time I sit down and open the Scriptures up on my kitchen table on days when I’m tired and the interruptions just keep coming, that I can’t give this up.  Even if the inspiration doesn’t come, even if God seems silent or my soul unstirred, still I build this ark.

When the chores seem endless…
when you’re deep-soul tired…
when you can’t seem to find your joy and don’t know where you lost it…
when no one says, “thank you” or appears to notice you serving them…
when others ridicule your efforts and tell you it doesn’t matter…
when you’re teaching but they don’t seem to understand….
when you’re pouring everything you have into this but you don’t see results….
when you give with passion and what you receive back is criticism….

You get up in the morning and you lay one more peg and one more board into the ark that God told you to build.

You do everything just as God commanded you, not because it’s easy or fun or seems so rewarding in the moment.

We do it because we’re building into eternity:

“Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all”
(2 Corinthians 4:16-17).

Originally published 2/1/2013

Having Hope When You’ve Been Stepped On

Acts2

My daughter was about two-and-a-half when she stepped on a butterfly.

We do this every spring as we prepare for Easter, order a cup of caterpillars and follow their journey to new life.  We watch the change, marvel again at the miracle: how the tomb doesn’t always mean death; maybe it means resurrection.

We remember that we are the ones who die to self and then gain new life in Christ, like caterpillars willingly spinning themselves into tight dormancy only to be made new.

We watched those caterpillars climb all over the tiny plastic cup for about a week.  Then they scaled the sides of the cup, flipped themselves upside down and wrapped themselves into a chrysalis.

They looked dead for a week.

One morning, I shuffled around the kitchen, moving through routine with my eyes barely cracked open.  Poured cereal. Made tea. Oversaw teeth-brushing and hair-brushing.

Then I saw the wings.

The chrysalis had cracked open and there in the morning light sat our first butterfly, fanning his wings slowly while the other caterpillars remained entombed.

Over the next day or so, the other new butterflies pushed their way out and flexed their wings.

We squeezed drops of sugar water on freshly cut chrysanthemums and watched the butterflies strengthen.  First they sat in stillness.  Then they hopped to the bottom and explored.  Then they started flying around in circles, eager for freedom.

So, we set them free.

We gathered into the garden in the warm sun of a spring Saturday and one by one released each butterfly.

But we forgot to explain the difference between butterflies and bugs to my youngest daughter, I suppose.

When one of the butterflies flew up and then back to the ground, she squashed it with her one tiny foot stomping down on the ‘pest’ just like we would crush any spider.

It was like a slow motion moment in a film, with us leaping to try to rescue the butterfly and prevent the impending doom, but failing in the end.

Amazingly enough, that butterfly still lived.  We eased him and his bruised wing onto a flower where he could enjoy some food without needing to fly.

Maybe you’ve been that butterfly.

Eager to fly.  Excited for freedom.  Hoping for beauty.

Then crushed, bruised, broken.

Maybe you’ve started this year with anticipation, holding your breath for that first sign of good news.

And you’ve already felt like a giant foot has squashed you to the ground.

Maybe it seems like nothing ever changes even though you desperately long for it to change.

Proverbs 13:12 says:

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Hope isn’t a fickle whim, a fanciful impression that maybe good things will come your way.

Hope is a steadfast knowledge, an anchor of truth that without a doubt you know: God is good and He will take care of you.

And when you feel a little bruised and battered, like a butterfly crushed at that first taste of freedom, hope can feel a little shaky, a little elusive, a little hard to see in the deep of the dark.

Surely Noah must have had those days, floating on that ark long, long after the rain had ceased.

How long, Lord?  When will this end, Lord?  Will we ever get off this ark, Lord?

He started sending out messengers of hope: ravens and doves.

He was desperate for the assurance of dry, solid ground.

Then one day, the dove brought him an olive leaf.  More than that, the dove brought him renewed hope.

Max Lucado writes:

“An olive leaf.  Noah would have been happy to have a bird but to have the leaf!  This leaf was more than foliage; this was promise.  The bird brought more than a piece of a tree; it brought hope.  For isn’t that what hope is?  Hope is an olive leaf—evidence of dry land after flood… (From A Love Worth Giving)

When we are weary and defeated, we can seek hope.  We can send out those doves and ravens and ask God for a sign of dry land after flood.

When we are strong, we can be the dove for another.  We can bring olive leaves to the hurting. We can bring reminders of hope and God’s faithfulness to those who can’t see the solid ground.

Do you need an olive leaf today?  Do you need to bring an olive leaf to someone else who is hurting?

Here are 30 Bible Verses on Hope to help.

Originally published 1/5/2015

We are not forgotten

psalm 20-6

For the record, I’ve never forgotten one of my kids at a store or anything.

But there was the time I left a child in the minivan.

When my youngest daughter was about four, she used to run into the house as soon as we got home and then hide behind the curtains.

She always hid in the same place.

She always thought she was both hilarious and amazingly creative for hiding in that same exact place.

And then when we’d all load out of the minivan and step into the kitchen, she’d jump out and ‘surprise’ us.

Only that night, I shut the minivan door and trudged into the house with my arms loaded down with stuff, stuff and more stuff after an evening at church.

A few minutes later, my husband asks, “Where’s Catherine?”

Well, isn’t she hiding behind the curtains like she always is?  Why hasn’t she jumped out to surprise us yet?

Actually, no, she was still in the minivan.

She never climbed out and never made any noise about it, so we’d left her locked inside alone and in the dark.

Not one of my prize Mom moments, I’ll admit.

My husband carried our baby girl in and she cried for a bit over feeling lost and forgotten and even a little afraid.  She wasn’t traumatized, though, (God’s grace right there!) and I’m not even sure if she remembers it ever happened.

I do, of course.

We’re slow to forget mistakes and easily traumatized by our own failures.

But I can still see her now, arms wrapped around Daddy’s neck, face buried in his shoulder, leaning into him in gratitude and relief because he had remembered her and he had come for her in the dark and carried her out of loneliness into a place of safety.

He saved her.

This week I read in my Bible:

But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided (Genesis 8:1 ESV).

God remembered Noah.

All those nights shut up in the smelly ark, rocked about by the ever-present water, Noah may have felt forgotten, abandoned, trapped, and left to rot away from mildew and a bad case of cabin fever.

And maybe we know what that’s like.

Maybe we’ve felt like God didn’t hear us, wasn’t aware of what we’re going through, wasn’t paying attention, and had simply forgotten us right in the moment of our greatest need.

The Israelites probably felt that same way, sweating and groaning their way through hundreds of years in Egyptian slavery.

It’s clear that they weren’t silent sufferers, either.  Instead, “the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help” (Exodus 2:23).

And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.   (Exodus 2:24-25, ESV).

God remembered them, too.

I love how the Message breaks this down:

God listened to their groanings.
God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.
God saw what was going on with Israel.
God understood (Exodus 2:24-25, MSG).

God listened.  God remembered.  God saw.  God understood.

There’s something else, though.  Something true for Noah.  Something true for Israel.  Something true for us even now.

When Scripture tells us God remembers, it doesn’t mean He ever truly forgot us.  It’s not like He had a case of temporary amnesia or couldn’t recall our name or lost track of our plight.

Or left us behind in the minivan.

When God remembers, it’s a sign in Scripture that this is the moment He’ll reveal His activity.  It’s the moment when everything God had been doing in the hidden places is clear and revealed and brought to the light.

No more waiting.

Now it’s time for God to be on the move.

He orders the waters on the earth to recede so Noah and his family could step out of that ark onto dry ground.

He calls Moses from a burning bush and tells him to go lead Israel out of Egypt.

So, we can hold fast to this same truth as we groan in our own need, whether it be the annoyance of a daily stress, the repentance over a habitual sin, or the hardest of life’s challenges.

God hears us.  God remembers His promises to us.  God sees us.  God understands.

And then He rescues.

Now I know that the Lord saves His anointed; He will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of His right hand” (Psalm 20:6, ESV).

 

 

Having Hope When You’ve Been Stepped On

My daughter was about two-and-a-half when she stepped on a butterfly.

We do this every spring as we prepare for Easter, order a cup of caterpillars and follow their journey to new life.  We watch the change, marvel again at the miracle: how the tomb doesn’t always mean death; maybe it means resurrection.

We remember that we are the ones who die to self and then gain new life in Christ, like caterpillars willingly spinning themselves into tight dormancy only to be made new.psalm 31

We watched those caterpillars climb all over the tiny plastic cup for about a week.  Then they scaled the sides of the cup, flipped themselves upside down and wrapped themselves into a chrysalis.

They looked dead for a week.

One morning, I shuffled around the kitchen, moving through routine with my eyes barely cracked open.  Poured cereal. Made tea. Oversaw teeth-brushing and hair-brushing.

Then I saw the wings.

The chrysalis had cracked open and there in the morning light sat our first butterfly, fanning his wings slowly, testing the air, while the other caterpillars remained entombed.

Over the next day or so, the other new butterflies pushed their way out and flexed their wings.

We squeezed drops of sugar water on freshly cut chrysanthemums and watched the butterflies strengthen.  First they sat in stillness.  Then they hopped to the bottom and explored.  Then they started flying around in circles, eager for freedom.

So, we set them free.

We gathered into the garden in the warm sun of a spring Saturday and one by one released each butterfly into our garden.

But we forgot to explain the difference between butterflies and bugs to my youngest daughter, I suppose.

When one of the butterflies flew up and then back to the ground, she squashed it.  Quick as any reflex, she just stomped down her tiny foot on the ‘pest’ just like we would any spider.

We all tried to stop her.  It was like a slow motion moment in a film, with us leaping to try to rescue the butterfly and prevent the impending doom, but failing in the end.

Amazingly enough, that butterfly still lived.  We eased him and his bruised wing onto a flower where he could enjoy some food without needing to fly.

Maybe you’ve been that butterfly.

Eager to fly.  Excited for freedom.  Hoping for beauty.

Then crushed, bruised, broken.

Maybe you’ve started this year with anticipation, holding your breath for that first sign of good news.

And you’ve already felt like a giant foot has squashed you to the ground.

Maybe it seems like nothing ever changes even though you desperately long for it to change.

Proverbs 13:12 says:

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Hope isn’t a fickle whim, a fanciful impression that maybe good things will come your way.

Hope is a steadfast knowledge, an anchor of truth that without a doubt you know: God is good and He will take care of you.

And when you feel a little bruised and battered, like a butterfly crushed at that first taste of freedom, hope can feel a little shaky, a little elusive, a little hard to see in the deep of the dark.

Surely Noah must have had those days, floating on that ark long, long after the rain had ceased and the world was covered in a blanket of endless water.

How long, Lord?  When will this end, Lord?  Will we ever get off this ark, Lord?

Are we stuck here forever?  Will we walk on dry land again?  Can we please live without the stench of a floating zoo in our nostrils day and night?

He started sending out messengers of hope: ravens and doves.

He was desperate for the sign, the assurance of dry, solid ground.

The dove brought him an olive leaf.  More than that, the dove brought him renewed hope.

Max Lucado writes:

“An olive leaf.  Noah would have been happy to have a bird but to have the leaf!  This leaf was more than foliage; this was promise.  The bird brought more than a piece of a tree; it brought hope.  For isn’t that what hope is?  Hope is an olive leaf—evidence of dry land after flood… (From A Love Worth Giving)

And so, when we are weary and defeated, we can seek hope.  We can send out those doves and ravens and ask God for a sign of dry land after flood.

And so, when we are strong, we can be the dove for another.  We can bring olive leaves to the hurting. We can bring reminders of hope and God’s faithfulness to those who can’t see the solid ground.

Do you need an olive leaf today?  Do you need to bring an olive leaf to someone else who is hurting?

Here are 30 Bible Verses on Hope to help.

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

I’m Building an Ark Here

They say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

This morning, I think: “The ark wasn’t built in a day either.”

I think it as my baby girl (too big to be called “baby,” she tells me) bursts into my room far too early to announce, “Mom, it’s morning time!” And I’m tired.

The ark, remember the ark.

I’m pouring cereal and reviewing ancient China with a girl who is taking her big test today.  I pulled my other girl’s hair back into a ponytail, but it was the wrong kind.  She wanted it differently.  Using her hands, she tries to explain it to me and I’m slow, so I lean down trying to understand and experiment with the brush until I get it just right.

That ark takes time to build.

They’ve dressed and stepped into shoes.  I’ve reminded and reminded them, brush your teeth, grab your back pack, zip your coat.  Hurry!  It’s time!  We huddle at the bus stop with our backs to the February wind and I snuggle close to block them from the strength of the blasts.  Then I whisper a prayer for their day, for their tests and their friends and their obedience and their learning and how proud I am of all their hard work.

Just building an ark here.  Just taking the time.

Because sometimes you wake up tired.  Sometimes you’d rather pull those covers right on up to block out the sun and the cold and sleep away some of the day and lounge away the other half in pajamas and slippers.

Sometimes you just need the reminder that what you are doing has significance and value.  Sometimes you need to know….This Matters.

Even if today isn’t the day you pound the final peg into the ark and the animals step on two-by-two and the rain falls…

Even if you don’t see the final results or immediate success, know that every peg you place and every board you lay has purpose.

It takes about nine months for God to intricately fashion a human life in a womb.
It takes 365 days for the earth to circle that sun, spinning around in its orbit.
It even takes 8 minutes from the sun to stretch its light down to our planet.
And it took decades for Noah to build that ark.

Progress happens over time, seconds and minutes and day after another day of don'tgiveupperseverance, dedication and refusing to give up.

How often Noah must have woken up to a new morning and wanted to stop.

Surely there were days it felt impossible to construct a massive floating vessel without power tools and contractors.
Surely the ridicule from the masses and those he considered his closest friends—yes even from his family—must have wearied his soul.
Surely there were moments he just needed God to reassure him that he wasn’t crazy, that he heard correctly, that what he was doing was necessary.

Some days it must have seemed so hard.  Some days maybe he wanted to give up.

Yet, had he given up one decade….one year…one month…one week….one day too soon, had he abandoned the project and left the ark unfinished, it wouldn’t have saved anyone.  God couldn’t use an unfinished ship to rescue, save, and redeem.

God saved him…and us…because “Noah did everything just as God commanded him” (Genesis 5:22).

Just one simple verse; it makes it sound so easy.

But I know the truth.  I know every time I sit down and open the Scriptures up on my kitchen table on days when I’m tired and the interruptions just keep coming, that I can’t give this up.  Even if the inspiration doesn’t come, even if God seems silent or my soul unstirred, still I build this ark.

When the chores seem endless…when you’re deep-soul tired…when you can’t seem to find your joy and don’t know where you lost it…when no one says, “thank you” or appears to notice your serving them…when others ridicule your efforts and tell you it doesn’t matter…when you’re teaching but they don’t seem to understand….when you’re pouring everything you have into this but you don’t see results….when you give with passion and what you receive back is criticism….

You get up in the morning and you lay one more peg and one more board into the ark that God told you to build.  You do everything just as God commanded you, not because it’s easy or fun or seems so rewarding in the moment.

We do it because we’re building into eternity:

“Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all”
(2 Corinthians 4:16-17).

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

A Plan to Be Better

I tucked my oldest girl into bed last night and she told me, “Today at school, Mrs. Davidson explained all about how people make plans to be better.  So I made a plan for the new year.”

I expected her to announce a strategy to get a dog or be a princess or learn pointe in ballet or be a famous artist–the true aspirations of her little heart.

Instead, she said, “I’m planning to get up in the morning early and get ready for school easier every day.  Did you make a plan to be better this year, mom?”

“I haven’t chosen a resolution,” I said.  “Do you have any suggestions?”

Without any hesitation or even time to take a breath, she said, “I think you should play more video games!”

Perhaps that translates to “Be a more fun mom and play with my kids more often.”  That’s certainly a resolution worth making!

David lived long before the time of New Year’s resolutions, fad diets, gym memberships, and self-help books.  Still, he wrote a psalm of “I wills” that translates into some worthy goals for all of us in 2012.

I will praise God more.

David began with this promise to God, “I will sing of your love and justice; to you, Lord, I will sing praise” (Psalm 101:1).  It’s a reminder to be grateful and to give testimony to others of God at work in your life.  Give thanks everyday.

I will strive for the blameless life.

David continued, “I will be careful to lead a blameless life .  . . I will conduct the affairs of my house with a blameless heart” (Psalm 101:2).

We can’t be perfect.  Every mom will lose it occasionally.  Every wife will mess up.  Every friend will forget. We all sin.

Yet, still we can “be careful,” as David says.  We can allow God to work on our hearts and clean out the dark and dusty places.  We can ask for His help controlling our tongue and our tempers.  We can pray that He will guide us as moms, wives, sisters and friends and help us become more godly every day.

I will guard my heart and mind.

We used to sing as kids, “Oh be careful little eyes what you see  . . .  be careful little ears what you hear . . . be careful little feet where you go”

David said it this way, “I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it.  The perverse of heart shall be far from me;
I will have nothing to do with what is evil.” (Psalm 101:3-4).

Sometimes we excuse a little sin or shrug off feelings of discomfort about that show, or song, or movie, or book or relationship.

When God looked out on the sin-laden world during the time of Noah, He “regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled” (Genesis 6:6, NIV).

The Message says it this way: “God was sorry that he had made the human race in the first place; it broke his heart.”

This year, consider making that your standard for what you see, what you hear, where you go and what you do.  Will this break the heart of God?

I will watch my words.

In his epistle, James wrote: “Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another” (James 4:11).

‘Slander’ sounds so harsh.  Perhaps we feel it’s okay to speak our minds or criticize when it’s the truth.

Not according to James.  Beth Moore notes in James: Mercy Triumphs: “the Greek word translated ‘slander’ in NIV also means ‘criticize’ (HCSB) and ‘speak against’ (NASB).

So, if it was said critically about another person, it was sin.  We need to be women with gracious tongues, not judgmental or critical ones.

David goes a step farther:  ” Whoever slanders their neighbor in secret, I will put to silence; whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, I will not tolerate” (Psalm 101:5).   Not only was he not going to speak slander, he wouldn’t even listen to it from others.

I will invest in Godly friendships

David finished off the Psalm with these words:

“My eyes will be on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; the one whose walk is blameless will minister to me. No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house; no one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence. Every morning I will put to silence all the wicked in the land; I will cut off every evildoer from the city of the LORD” (Psalm 101:6-8).

This year, find ways to build into relationships with others who love God.  Join a small group.  Find a Christian mentor.  Choose someone to befriend who you can mentor in turn.  God never intended for us to walk this Christian life alone.

There you have it.  David’s “I will” list.

What has God placed on your heart for the new year?

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

Copyright © 2011 Heather King