God Gives us What We Need When We Need It #AnywhereFaith

anywhere-faith-quote-3

Sometimes we want to see the provision in advance.

Before we step out in “faith,” we want to know we have enough: time, money, strength, ideas, training, support.  We want our offerings to God and our ministry for Him to be perfect.

But in Hebrews, we’re told:

Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

God helps us in our time of need—not as a stockpile for our seasons of neediness.

This is a lesson I’m learning inch by inch.

For just about a whole year before it ever happened, I worried over a “need.”  My oldest daughter started middle school this September and I’ve been running over questions about the transition since last September.

When will the bus come?  How will she adjust to earlier morning hours?  How do we get her to school on time without waking up all the other kids? Will she need to take showers in the morning or at night?  How will her after school activities fit into the schedule?  

Maybe it all sounds a bit extreme to you, but still I stressed, planned, and considered possibilities.

I prayed.

Here’s what happened.  On the first day of school, she got up, got ready, and went to school.  She’s done that every day this month.

Just like that.

A new ministry, a schedule adjustment, an extra activity thrown in, a needy friend, a season of pouring out to others—these aren’t opportunities to freak out; they are opportunities to see God come through.

God gives US what We need when WE need it, and not often before.

One of my favorite “callings” in Scripture is the moment God spoke to Jeremiah:

Then I said, “Alas, Lord God!
Behold, I do not know how to speak,
Because I am a youth.”
But the Lord said to me,
“Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’
Because everywhere I send you, you shall go,
And all that I command you, you shall speak.
“Do not be afraid of them,
For I am with you to deliver you,” declares the Lord (Jeremiah 1:6-8 ESV). 

On the surface, It sounds like Jeremiah thought he was too young for prophetic ministry.

But then I consider context:

the word of the Lord came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign (Jeremiah 1:2 ESV).

Jeremiah began prophesying during the reign of Josiah, who became king when he was only eight years old.

So even if Jeremiah was in his teens or early 20s when God spoke to him, he had seen God use an eight-year-old king to lead the nation of Judah in one of its greatest spiritual revivals.

“I’m too young” doesn’t seem like a good excuse.

Maybe what Jeremiah really felt was unready and unprepared.

And that’s where I totally understand Jeremiah.

Sometimes I feel unready, too.

Like this whole transition to middle school, I wanted to know all the answers in advance and have the perfect plan already in place.

You too?

When God calls you, do you ask Him to wait until you feel “ready?”

Maybe if we train a little longer, stock up a little more, save a bit, work it all out on paper, and prepare, prepare, prepare, then we can follow God’s call.

We wait until we have extra money to give.

We wait until our gifts are perfected to offer them to others.

We wait for free time before we serve.

But the time to serve God isn’t when we feel ready; it’s when He asks us to follow.

After all, God told Jeremiah, “I am with you.”

He promises us His presence, too!

If we wait until we’re “ready,” until we’re prepared, until we’re fully trained, until our gift and our offering are perfect, until we feel like enough, we’ll wait and wait and never take that step of faith and obedience.

We’ll be trusting in ourselves rather than relying on God to be with us and to be enough for us.

Ecclesiastes 11:4 says:

If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done (TLB).

What is it you feel the Holy Spirit nudging you to do?  What season are you entering?  What task has He laid at your feet?

God will be enough for you.  He will give you everything you need exactly when you need it.  So, don’t pause until you feel ready or until you’re perfect and your gift is worthy.

Right now, right where you are, with what you have, you can follow Him where He’s calling you to go and trust Him for provision and strength for the journey.

To read more about what people in the Bible said to God when He called them, please check out my new book, Anywhere Faith (releasing October 3rd).  

You can stop trying so hard

psalm 46 NASB

It started with a road trip.

Our intention had been to make the 3-hour drive as a family, but a stomach virus incapacitated 3 of my 4 children, so it was just mom and daughter in a minivan for hours.

We had plenty of time to talk about life, love, growing up and superior travel snacks (AKA Twizzlers).

On the way home, we stopped to get her a hamburger.  My daughter looked at the 16-year-old-ish girl at the drive-thru window and asked, “Mom, did you work or have a job as a teenager?”

She’s 10.  She’s thinking ahead.  This is a good thing.

I tell her how I volunteered at my local library for years, babysat, and then my first real job was working as a legal assistant at a law firm.

“WHOA.”  She stops with her hamburger halfway to her mouth.

“How was that your first job?  You mean you didn’t work at a McDonald’s or anything?”

Yes, how did that happen?

Was it my eye-catching resume, my extraordinary job interviewing skills, or some career-launching internship that I had snagged in middle school?

Nope.

I tell her:

“It was God. I just worked hard at whatever God gave me to do and then He opened up new opportunities.”

Be faithful with what you’re doing right now and leave the future to Him.

That’s what I tell her.

I’m a striver.

I’m a do everything you’re supposed to do and more, work until you collapse from exhaustion, pack every day totally full and then spill the to-do list over onto the next day—kind of person.

As a mom, I fight Pinterest-depression because of everything a good mom is “supposed” to be doing.

As a writer, I’m supposed to Tweet and Facebook post hourly, pin on Pinterest 3 times a day, read 5 or so blog posts every morning and comment to them, write my own blog post every day, guest post to other blogs, send query letters and book proposals out monthly, write articles, write books, attend writer’s conferences, and read and study enough to make sure I have something worth saying.

But I fail.

My house is not organized.

I lose my temper with my kids at times.

I let my kids play outside some days instead of making them practice the piano.

I do not schedule enough play dates.

I occasionally forget to sign my kids’ agenda for school (shocker!)

I am sometimes too-much-mom and not-enough-wife.

And as a writer, well, let’s just say Twitter and I aren’t the best of friends.

So I’m talking with my daughter in the minivan about my first job, using the moment to teach her, but I’m also speaking truth to my own weary heart.

You don’t have to be a striver.

God doesn’t ask you or expect you to do everything.

He asks that we faithfully do what He’s called us to do.  Just that.

When we pack extra burdens down onto our shoulders of ‘must-do’s,’ should-do’s’ and ‘have-to’s,’ we collapse under the weight.

I’ve spread out face down at God’s feet before and said exactly what those exhausted disciples said:

“We worked hard all night…and we caught nothing” Luke 5:5

They had stayed up all night fishing, working hard with nothing to show for it.  Their fishing expedition was a capital-F Failure.

Their nets weren’t faulty.  Their boat wasn’t to blame.  They had the necessary skills.  The location was fine.

They did what they were ‘supposed’ to do.

They had slaved away trying to force success and make something happen, all in their own effort, trusting in their own skill, know-how and sweat.

In the morning when Jesus told them to go put out those same nets off the side of that same boat, they probably blinked tired eyes in disbelief.

But Peter promised to obey:

“You say to put the nets in the water, so I will” (Luke 5:5).

God brings abundance when we bring obedience.

They didn’t have to fish all night.  They only needed to fish when and where Jesus said. That’s when He loaded them down with enough fish to snap their nets.

That Psalm we always go to that says, “Be still and know that I am God…” Here it is in the NASB:

Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10).

Cease striving.

He’s going to be exalted.

Not because we worked hard to exalt Him.

Because He is God.

What has God called you to do today?

Do that.  Put your whole heart into it.  Be faithful and passionate and focused.  Be obedient.

Trust Him with the future and stop trying so hard.

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.

The Great Human Struggle Right There in the Middle of the Kitchen

He freezes in the kitchen with one hand hanging mid-air.

psalm84

Picture courtesy of Steve Janacek, PicJumbo

He was headed into “The Forbidden Territory”—AKA the laundry room—just as fast as he could crawl when he heard me say, “No.”

And this tiny baby boy engaged in the great human struggle right there in the middle of my kitchen floor.

Do I do what I want to do?  Even if I know it’s wrong?  Even if mom says, ‘no?’

Or do I obey and turn to enjoy something else, something approved and acceptable?

He tilts his head up so he can see me, still sticking his hand right out into the air, paralyzed as he decides where to slap that hand down on the linoleum floor.  Place the hand here to move forward to the “No Zone of the laundry room.”  Place the hand there to turn and obey.

His muscles actually twitch under the strain of the decision.  He grunts and growls.  He looks at me with the brightest blue eyes all filled to the brim with tears.

Because he wants what he wants.

And yet, still crying, still upset, still disappointed, slowly he lowers that hand down and shifts his body.

He turns.

He crawls full speed ahead to my legs and throws himself at me.

Sometimes obedience is hard.  So I reward him with cheers and kisses on his cheeks and an elaborate hug.

He’s not even old enough for me to lay it all out for him all psychological and explanatory.  How sometimes Mom says ‘no’ because she loves you and she doesn’t want you to end up in the laundry room with a mouthful of cat poop because you found the litter box.

How sometimes the things we think we want the very most are the very worst for us.

So, it’s my Mom-job to tell him “no,” not to be mean or arbitrary, but for protection and because I have something better in mind than cat litter (promise!).

Does God give whisper this to us also?

Dearest One, I love you.  I know that your heart is hurting because I’ve said, “no,” but please trust me and trust my heart for you.  I’m not out to harm you or withhold blessings or good things from you.  I’m here to protect you.  Wait for the moment when I say, “Yes” and it’s perfect.  It’s worth waiting for.  Love, Abba

The Psalmist said it:

For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.
  Psalm 84:11 ESV

He is our light.  He is our protection.  And He doesn’t withhold good things for us.

But we have to let Him define what is ‘good.’

Paul pursued what seemed like a noble Gospel-sharing goal—to preach in Asia–and yet, the Holy Spirit stopped him with a clear, ‘no.’

Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. (Acts 16:6-7 NIV).

It’s a ‘no’ that doesn’t seem to make a bit of sense.  Surely Paul’s itinerary seemed ‘good.’

Yet, even when it seems hopeless and crazy, utterly insane, or like all the doors are closed and everything is over and you should just give up already and go home, if God tells you ‘no’ and asks you to wait….then wait.  If He asks you to turn, then turn.

Linda Evans Shepherd in The Stress Cure writes:

Living in God’s will means always saying yes to God (p. 138).

You want me to stop?  Yes, Lord.
You want me to wait?  Yes, Lord.
You want me to change direction?  Yes, Lord.

That’s what He did for Paul.  He redirected Paul’s steps to Macedonia and to a Gospel mission to Europe:

 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them (Acts 16:9-10).

Maybe I would have pushed and shoved right out of God’s presence and His will and right on into Asia.

Yet, Paul turned.  He accepted the ‘no’ and said ‘yes’ to God’s mission and agenda instead of his own seemingly noble one.

Do I want what I want?  Even if I know it’s wrong?  Even if God says no?

Or do I want to be where God is, satisfied and content in His presence and trusting in His love?

May we always choose the “yes” of His presence.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I Learn When to Say, ‘Yes?’

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

Bleeding Words: An Offering

Ernest Hemingway said:

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

Now we’ve graduated to Word Processors, but still the pouring out of self onto paper burns painful at times.

But not when you hoard it or hide it away in safe shadows.  I can sit here typing away sentiments, thoughts, emotions crammed into words, hit the save button and tuck it away just for me. There’s no danger in that.

It’s in the sharing with others that you open your heart all up, vulnerable and unprotected.

So, I sat at that computer screen and had to breathe in and out a few times before opening the attached file.  It seems forever ago that I sent my editor the complete manuscript for my book, one file ask-me-anything-lord_kdattached to an email that read: Heather King-Ask Me Anything Lord.

And now here she had sent it back, this time marked as edited.

Sometimes in a wave of anxiety I think, “Oh, it would be so much easier to just end the exposure and hide myself away again.”  No more writing and hoping others like it, hoping no one criticizes or critiques.  No more posting to a blog or sending in articles to magazines or submitting manuscripts or book proposals to editors and waiting for the replies to come.

But in my heart, there is also this desire for growing and learning and for obedience, and this is my hope as I finally assume enough bravery to open up my editor’s attachment.  After all, don’t I want to hear what she says?  Don’t I want to mend and amend and improve all the time so every single day I’m more useful to God?

Yes.  I want my offerings to God to be ever more beautiful. When He asks me to lay it down, I want to have the gift in my hands to give, not locked away.

So, I double click the attachment in one quick act of bravery and scan through the comments.

I sigh out one heaving release of a held breath.

What she says blesses me.  I learn.  I edit here and understand there.  Really the changes aren’t so hard.  And instead of working alone, surreptitiously typing away on a private document, now I have shared the work with another.  We’ve united in our effort and it is better for the working together.

Sometimes, that fear of being hurt and the desire to be safe keeps us from ever raising our hand to volunteer or making the phone call with an offer to serve. Maybe instead of shining ourselves, we’re content to linger in the shadows so no one will see us in the light.

Yet, obedience means accepting the danger and willingly giving anyway. It means preparing our gifts, tending them, investing in them, honing them, learning from others so we can offer up what is a “pleasing aroma” of sacrifice to our God.

Shortly before Jesus’s betrayal and arrest, he dined at a man named Simon’s house in Bethany. A woman entered the feasting room and broke an entire jar of expensive and fragrant oil over Jesus’ head. Her prophetic gift to Christ, anointing him before his burial, was a public act of worship, not a safely private and hidden offering.

And she was criticized. The men at the table scolded her and evaluated her offering. They complained it was a waste of resources, unnecessary and without purpose. Others may have judged her, but Jesus quieted them saying:

“Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a noble thing for Me….She has done what she could” (Mark 14:6, 8 HCSB).

The offerings we bring to God are never about our glory or about competing with others or meeting expectations. It’s not about numbers, not about ‘success,’ not about being the best or at the very least being better. It’s about giving what we have, the very best we can indeed give.

Jesus’ is the only opinion that mattered at that table, and yes, it should be all that matters to us.

And He is simply pleased when He can say of us like he did of the woman with the alabaster jar, “she has done what she could.”

With what He’s given you, in the way that He’s designed you, using the passions, past, personality and gifts that He’s placed within you, are you doing what you could?

Not what anyone else could do.

Just what you can do.

If that’s what matters to Him, that’s all that should matter to us.  So despite the danger of exposure or the fear of critique, we offer back to Him what He has given us.

Heather King is a busy-but-blessed wife and mom, a 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

Putting Your Face in the Water

I told her it could be the perfect birthday present for me.  I cajoled and plead.

Please won’t you put your face in the water at swim lessons? Won’t you blow bubbles in the water when the teacher asks?

She nodded her head yes, but it was that uncertain kind of assent that just means, “I want to please you Mom, but that’s asking so much.”023

I sat on the sidelines of the pool, breathing in the humid air and watching her.

She laughed as she bounced in the water, shivered a bit as she waited for her turn, obeyed the teacher’s every command.

Until the teacher said, “Okay, time to blow bubbles in the water.”

I waited, hoping for success this time.  She’d been at this for six weeks, willing, compliant, cheerful even.  But this one request she just wouldn’t do.

Not that she cried or screamed, threw tantrums or caused problems. No, she just kind of giggled it off, maybe shaking her head with a smile or looking away as if she didn’t hear what the teacher asked.

The results this week were the same as all the other classes.

She kicked her feet and moved her arms and did all the good swimmer things.  But she arched her back as far as it could go and stretched her neck out long like a turtle so that not one bit of her face would touch the water.

Class ended and my little girl inched her way over to me, teeth chattering from the cold.  I snuggled her into the towel and held her close and the teacher walked over and just shook her head “no” with a smile.

Not this week.

I know it as I watch her in the pool and see her so sweetly confident and strong.  She could be a great little swimmer, but this fear or determination or whatever it is stunts her progress.

What we need is for her to dip her face right in that water and stop avoiding it.  Go full in, unafraid and unhindered.

Don’t we all need to do that?  To stop avoiding the fullness of God’s call or the way God asks us to dunk down and be buried over by the Holy Spirit.  To stop holding out or straining our backs and necks in order to avoid the total obedience that comes with letting go.

All disciples have to make that choice.

Jesus said, “Follow me….” and men had to decide.  Drop the nets?  Abandon the family business?  And just go?  Not the controlled kind of obedience, the kind that says, “I’ll do this, but no more.  I’ll go here, but no farther.  I’ll get in the pool, but I don’t want my face wet.  I don’t want to feel out of control.”

There’s Matthew, the ostracized tax collector, known and scorned by religious Jews.  Maybe it even shocked some of the other disciples when Jesus didn’t rush past the tax collector’s booth, but approached it and offered that calling to the man sitting there.oneperfectlife

Jesus “said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ So he left all, rose up, and followed Him” (Luke 5:27-28 NKJV).

In One Perfect Life: The Complete Story of the Lord Jesus, John MacArthur notes, “LEFT ALL: This implies an irreversible action” (p. 117).

Matthew didn’t jump into the pool and yet keep his face out of the water just in case.  No he splashed down so deep that he was hopeless without Jesus.

And he got it, right away, what Jesus was after and who Jesus was. Others might have dipped in a toe and then waded up to the waist in the message and the Gospel before they really understood salvation and grace.

But this tax collector, remarkably and unexpectedly called out by the Messiah, knew it immediately.  This redemption gift wasn’t about who earned it and it wasn’t about being good enough to deserve it or to warrant Jesus’ attention or invitation.

It was for sinners and outcasts.

So, Matthew didn’t hesitate to share the news.  He threw a party and there Jesus sat with: “a large crowd of tax collectors and others who were guests with them”  And Jesus declared it right there at the dinner table: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:29-32).

That unhindered Gospel truth couldn’t be missed because Matthew left a tax collector’s booth to follow Jesus and then brought the Messiah to a dinner party full of sinners who needed a Savior.

Jesus isn’t pleading perhaps, not bribing or threatening or asking for “the best birthday present ever.”  But He’ll ask this—-Put your face in the water.  Trust me.  Don’t hold back.

And the message He wants to share through us depends on our answer.

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

How Was Your Day?

“How was your day?”

It’s my husband’s first question to me at the end of his work day every single evening.

This answer used to be easier.  How was my day?  Mostly that depended on work.  How much I accomplished, how difficult the tasks were, how successful I was, how many goals I’d met, and how well I juggled Mom-life with the job.

But now he asks, and I stumble and stutter.  How to answer a question that’s always been objective and quantifiable?

What makes a day good now?  Do I share my excitement over a new homemade bread recipe or the smell of the from-scratch spaghetti sauce bubbling away in the crock-pot?  Does vacuuming count as an accomplishment (it is, after all, on my to-do list)?  Do grocery store savings and coupon clipping validate me as a home manager?  Should I count the number of socks I matched and folded?

And beyond that, beyond all the tasks and tedium, how was my day relationally?  How many squabbles did I break up between my daughters?  How many lessons did I teach, conversations did I have, kisses did I bestow, Barbies did I undress and dress?

And even beyond that, if I close my day without any measurable way to evaluate my productivity at all, could the day still be “good?”

If I’ve listened to a hurting friend spill out all the ugly and the pain on the phone or if I’ve collapsed at the kitchen table with tea and my Bible and lingered there out of desperate dehydration and an aching hunger for His presence….does this mean today I have failed?

This slide into a works-based life tricks and deceives.  I don’t feel the gradual move from grace to law, don’t sense that I’ve shifted from relational priorities to measurable productivity.

But then someone asks about me, about my day, and I hear my own words and I know it for what it is:  My value has become dependent on the items crossed off my to-do list.

It’s the pitfall for working moms, the trap for single women in the workforce, and the snare of stay-at-home moms whose identity becomes tangled up with their children and the cleanliness of their home.

We all fall in the pit some time.stumblingintograce

In her book, Stumbling Into Grace, Lisa Harper reminds us that God “cares far more about the posture of our hearts than our productivity.  Even “good” things can become the enemy of God’s best for us” (p. 114).

It’s not that busyness itself is sin.  Sometimes busyness is just life with a job, a ministry, a husband, or kids.  Chances are you’re busy.  Chances are you get tired sometimes.

When Jesus commissioned the disciples for activity, they traveled for weeks of uncomfortable, on-foot missionary service to towns where they weren’t always well-received (Luke 9).  They weren’t overloading themselves with busyness; they were serving in obedience, following Jesus’ specific instructions about the journey.

Yet, they were tired.

When they returned home, “Jesus took them away, off by themselves, near the town called Bethsaida” (Luke 9:10, MSG). He knew they needed time away, alone time with Jesus.

Our need is the same.

But it begins here.  Not what did I accomplish, do, or achieve?  My good day begins with simply this: Did I do what God wanted me to do today?

The Lord promised, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28), but if we just keep throwing on the same burdensome loads, we’ll never feel truly rested.  That’s the weighed-down fatigue we choose when we do and do and do rather than obeying Him whether He’s sending us out or asking us to rest.

Oswald Chambers wrote:

An active Christian worker too often lives to be seen by others, while it is the innermost, personal area that reveals the power of a person’s life.

We must get rid of the plague of the spirit of this religious age in which we live.  In our Lord’s life there was none of the pressure and the rushing of tremendous activity that we regard so highly today, and a disciple is to be like His Master.  The central point of the kingdom of Jesus Christ is a personal relationship with Him, not public usefulness to others

God alone can determine the value of our day, the need for productivity at times or the requirement of rest in other seasons.

If He has told you to rest, are you resting?  If He has asked you to work, are you working?

Others might glance at your calendar and think, “She’s too busy” or “She’s such a slacker.”  But it’s not up to them.

It’s up to Him.

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

Altars of Uncut Stones

Originally published April 16, 2012

I picked up my daughter’s yellow spring jacket and felt weight, heaviness where it shouldn’t be.  Clearly she had stuffed her pocket at the park with her latest treasure.

Curious, I slipped my hand into her pocket and pulled out . . . a rock.  Two rocks actually, one for each pocket.

They weren’t gems, either.  No sparkles or beauty.  No monetary value.020

They were plain ordinary gravel, no different than the layer of rock on my driveway.  In fact, the one crumbled into my fingers with the slightest pressure.

I sighed.  She had been toting home rocks for about two years now.  Everywhere we went, some pebbles, gravel, or smooth stones caught her attention and ended up in her pockets.

She has even tried to remove stones from the paths at Colonial Williamsburg and the zoo and once tried to haul away a cement block from the local museum where its grand function was to hold open the door.

I put my foot down about those.

But if it fits neatly into the pocket of her jacket, she’s likely to tuck it away and add it to her “rock collection.”  Perhaps she’ll even give it a name, which usually ends up being something like “Rocky” or another equally creative moniker.

To me, they are plain, ordinary, maybe even ugly rocks.  To her, they are treasured collectibles.

She’s not the only one who finds beauty in simple stones.  God loves them, too.

As they crossed over the Jordan River, the Israelites obeyed God’s instruction, picking up 12 stones from the river bed and lugging them up the embankment onto dry land.  God told them to use those stones to build an altar.

More specifically,

“an altar of stones.  You shall wield no iron tool on them; you shall build an altar to the Lord your God of uncut stones. And you shall offer burnt offerings on it to the Lord your God, and you shall sacrifice peace offerings and shall eat there, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God” (Deut. 27:5-7 ESV)

Their peace offerings and sacrifices, their worship and rejoicing before the God who had carried them into the Promised Land, may have seemed more fit for an altar of finest gems.

Perhaps their greatest artisans could have finely cut diamonds, emeralds and rubies into an altar fit for worship of the Most High God.

Or, if they had to use river rocks, at the very least they could have chiseled and carved until the altar looked like a marble statue.

Yet, God was clear.  Stones, simple stones, uncut by any human tool, formed the altar fit for the offerings of His people.

Why did God even care about a detail so small?  According to Him, “If you make an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones, for if you wield your tool on it you profane it” (Exodus 20:25).

To God, human construction on the altar stones made them unholy and profane.

That’s because God knew the danger implicit in cut stones and man-made bricks.  The moment we begin to adorn altars with human effort is the moment we shift the focus off of the God we praise.

We become idolaters.  Our worship becomes profane, admiring the human talent that made the vessel or cut the stone.

This is what God accused the people of doing in Isaiah:

I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices;a people who provoke me to my face continually, sacrificing in gardens and making offerings on bricks” (Isaiah 65:2-3 ESV).

Israel ignored God’s mandate and chose instead to offer their sacrifice among garden flowers.  They had rejected simple stones in favor of brick constructions.

Israel wanted to worship God their own way and on their own terms.  His instructions seemed superfluous and unnecessary.

In the same way, God sometimes overturns our expectations of adequate offerings and suitable worship.

He desires the simplicity of an obedient heart.

We think He needs more.  

So, we hold back our offerings until they are “fit” for Him.  We hide in the sanctuary pews until we have more to give.  We think other worshipers, who are more talented and more rehearsed, give gifts more worthy.

It isn’t, however, about being the best, most talented, or most qualified; it’s about being called.  Yours is the offering He desires.

There is beauty in the uncut stones of our worship.  It’s never about the show, never about our own talent or training; it’s not about looking good or fitting in, or processing our worship into acceptable forms—all human additions that shift focus off God and onto human ability.

Instead, it’s about responding to God in pure uncut adoration.

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

Making Progress

Writing doesn’t make you vulnerable until you let someone else read it.

And then, it opens you right up like a patient on the table, the critical eye of the surgeon evaluating the inner parts of you, what’s working and even what isn’t.  Even your life blood is laid bare and open to inspection.

I admit it.  I’m afraid sometimes.

Like the time I read a blog by Lysa TerKeurst, the president of Proverbs 31 Ministries.  She had just gotten her nails done.  It was such a simple thing.

And some of those lovely Christian women reading her sweet little blog post just about ripped her head off through the computer.

They called her all manner of horrid things, equating a nail file and some polish at a salon to being a harlot of Babylon.

Good gravy.

I’ve read about Beth Moore and the vicious, scathing letters she receives from Bible scholars and disgruntled readers.  Mary DeMuth talks about the nasty emails in her book, Everything, and how they just about crumpled her to the floor.

I’ve even ended up on email lists of people who feel the need to criticize every word every Christian writer has ever written….ever.

Blogging this way, pushing that “publish” button on the side of my screen as I finish each post, never lacks a certain amount of fear for me.  Fear I’ll offend.  Fear I’ll get it wrong.  Fear the words won’t be enough or they won’t be articulate enough, poetic enough, beautiful enough, inspirational enough, truthful enough.

I don’t sit here at the computer typing away several days a week because I’m bold or even slightly brave.  I don’t do it because I think I’m qualified or more capable.

Mostly, after all, I’m afraid.  I’m the people-pleasing girl daunted by failure, criticism and embarrassment, who’d rather sit on the sidelines and miss out on the fun than lay myself out there for everyone to see.

But if God says, “Go,” He means “go.”  And if God says, “Sing for others to hear…Write for others to read….Speak so others can listen….Dance so others can see….,” He’s asking you to be brave in Him.

For Moses, this calling was so difficult.  All he could see was his past—a murderer-turned-fugitive, who had spent 40 years in the desert tending sheep and trying to forget his life in Egypt.

He could see his inability, his sin, his insufficiency.  He was crippled by fear.

In fact, Moses wanted God to choose somebody else, because he spoke “with faltering lips” (Exodus 6:30).

In the Message paraphrase, Moses says, “Look at me. I stutter.”

“Look at me.”  Isn’t that what we’re doing when God calls us forward, but we remind Him of others who are more equipped and how incapable we really are? We’re fixing our eyes on ourselves or maybe on the fears that we’ve made bigger than God.

But God told Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet.” (Exodus 7:1 NIV).

The Message says it this way:  “God told Moses, ‘Look at me…'”

It’s a re-direction of our focus, a looking up instead of a looking in or looking down or even looking ahead.

The prophet Habakkuk described it this way:

The Lord God is my Strength, my personal bravery, and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds’ feet and will make me to walk [not to stand still in terror, but to walk] and make [spiritual] progress upon my high places [of trouble, suffering, or responsibility]! (Habakkuk 3:19 AMP).

God is our Strength.  He is our personal bravery.

It is He who makes us walk forward rather than standing still in terror.  Even more than that, He gives us progress when we’d rather give up or run away or fail to even begin the journey.

But only when we let go of fear (of failure, of criticism, of people, of abandonment, of getting it wrong…) can we move forward.  Only when we stop looking at our own clumsy feet or squinting ahead trying to make out any dangers along the path can we trust Him to guide us along the rocky mountain climb, making us as nimble and sure-footed as the practiced mountain deer.

Do you have any fears that are holding you back from obeying God’s call?

Christian Writers Blog Chain

Today’s post is part of the January topic, ‘Forward’ by the ChristianWriters.com Blog Chain. You can click on the links on the right side of this page to read more articles in this series.

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

Weekend Walk: Party Planning and A Christmas Verse

It’s all part of the plan, my strategy for party preparation.

Today is my oldest daughter’s birthday celebration with friends from school.  She’s almost a Christmas baby, so we decided to plan something simple for a small group of friends earlier in December, and she was determined that it be at our house.

So, all week long I’ve glanced at the kitchen floor with juice spills and mystery splatter and thought….”If I mop you today, I’ll just have to do it acleaninggain on Friday.  Someone will surely spill as soon as you’re clean.”

And to the dust gathering on the television stand in the living room, I promised a wipe with a soft cloth Friday evening.

I interrupted my normal vacuuming schedule earlier in the week so that I could zoom through the house just hours before the party on Saturday morning.

This has been my strategy of preparation.  Knowing as I do exactly when those first little knocks on our door will occur, I can target the precise moment when my house is the cleanest and shiniest and in most presentable shape.

I hope.

Being prepared for visitors is no exact science, you know, and it’s even less so readying ourselves for God.  Christmas, after all, focuses so much on preparation.  The Jewish people, after waiting hundreds of years for the promised Messiah, the savior of their people–and the world— felt more than ready, perhaps even impatient, for His coming.

But they weren’t.  Not really.  So God sent a messenger, John the Baptist, who shouted out the news to prepare, get ready, make yourselves right before God because the Savior was coming.

Still, when Christ came, there was no room, no readiness.  Instead there was debate and jealousy, hatred and power plays.

Only a few men and women willingly allowed God to interrupt their lives and their personal agendas in order to make room for His Glory.  Only a few were ready for obedience.

Mary, bowing the head in submission, doing chores one second and carrying the Son of God in her womb the next.

Joseph, heeding the dreams God gave Him, marry this virgin with Child, take her to Egypt to save the baby from a murderous king, travel back home when King Herod had died.

Shepherds, tending sheep in the night, earning a living, toiling as usual, following the instructions of angels to a baby in a manger, worshiping, and spreading the news across the countryside.

Sages from the East journeying for years, far from their homes and their prominence and wealth in order to lay at the feet of a child gifts of honor and adoration.

Their readiness wasn’t that of twiddling their thumbs, idling their time so that at the slightest move of the Holy Spirit they could jump up in response to His command.

Instead, they were all busy, actively serving in their jobs and homes, doing the daily thing with faithfulness, attention, and care.  And then God spoke.

An angel’s voice.
A dream.
A heavenly choir.
A mysterious star.

And they laid it all aside to follow after God, wholeheartedly, passionately, abandoning everything in order to be present and part of His plan.

May we be so ready this season and every season for God’s movement.  We don’t want to miss it! Even more than that, let us not be an obstruction or hindrance to the miraculous wonder of God.

Our Christmas verse for the week reminds us that God always knows the exact moment to move; His timing is relentlessly perfect.  Let us, then, be expectant and ready to obey Him regardless of our plan or agenda or expectation.

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship (Galatians 4:4-5, NIV).

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 © 2012 Heather King

Weekend Rerun: Christmas Verse

Originally posted on December 17, 2011

Mary.

She’s been on my mind this week as I wrap presents, plan to see The Nutcracker, listen to Christmas tunes, bake cookies and prepare fruit trays for class Christmas parties. She’s all wrapped up in the middle of this Christmas story.

I’ve been thinking about her even more when I complain to God about what He’s doing in my life (or sometimes not doing), or when I prepare my end-of-the-year prayer list for God and realize how much it’s beginning to sound like a Dear Santa letter.

Mary received the greatest blessing from God without asking or seeking, just by walking in obedience and purity of heart in her everyday life.

Mary’s on my mind because the angel called her, “you who are highly favored!” and told her, “The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28, NIV 1984).

So often, I feel thoroughly humbled and honored that God gave me the care of my three precious daughters. Imagine how Mary felt to be asked to mother the Messiah.

She had found favor with God.  Isn’t that what we desire?  Not the accolades or rewards.  Certainly God isn’t looking for another Savior’s mom.  We do, however, long to please God and to bring Him joy.  I want Him to peer into the deepest parts of my heart and rejoice in what He finds there, just as He did with a teenage girl named Mary long ago.

I love Mary’s sweet innocence as she stood amazed that she would miraculously be with child.  Yet, the angel assured her, “nothing is impossible with God” and that was enough for her to believe (Luke 1:37).

If God wanted to stir up miraculous and impossible events in my life, I’d question and wonder, doubt, try hard to believe, believe for a moment, then feel incredulous again.  It’d be a see-saw of faith and doubt.

But Mary believed the promise.  “Nothing is impossible with God.”  I want to believe that God can do the impossible this year.

Then there’s Mary’s submission to all that God wanted to do in her life.  What the angel was asking wasn’t easy.  We think of the honor of being mother to the Promised Messiah, and yet it was entangled with pregnancy, labor, loss of a girlish figure, potential conflict with her betrothed, and societal shame.

It was messy and hard and disruptive.

Sometimes that’s what God asks us to do, skip out on the easy and step up to the difficult.  Mary was willing .Am I?  Are you?

My memory verse for this week shows her heart:

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her (Luke 1:38)

I’ll be praying this week for a Mary heart in preparation for Christmas and for a new year.

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 © 2012 Heather King