Maybe We Need to Rethink “Calling” #AnywhereFaith

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As a teen, I attended some huge youth conferences with my church and they tended to have something in common:

There was always a tremendously dynamic speaker who had a jaw-dropping testimony of God’s grace: He did drugs.  He was in a gang.  His girlfriend got pregnant and he made her have an abortion.  He was an alcoholic, who was addicted to pornography, and homeless.

Then He met Jesus.

By the time the testimony was over, the altars were flooded with teens crying and praying for God to save them and use them.

But my story didn’t seem to fit in.  They’d ask if anyone felt “called to ministry” and I’d raise my hand and pray that God use me “anywhere” and send me “anywhere.”

Only, how could He use a girl like me?  I’m relatively boring and surely the world truly needed displays of God’s grace and mercy on a grand scale.

I prayed and searched for God’s will for my life, but I didn’t end up in foreign missions or traditional full-time ministry.  So, does that mean God didn’t call me after all?

Now, that’s my story.  How I struggled to truly let grace seep deep in my soul.

How I searched so hard for one “big calling,” that I overlooked the impact of daily obedience and the calling to follow Him right here, right now, serving Christ by serving others in small ways every single day.

Your story might be like mine.  Maybe you desperately want to follow Jesus “anywhere,” but you can’t see where He wants you to go.

Or perhaps your story is entirely different.  Maybe you have that testimony of radical transformation, but you feel like an unworthy vessel, unfit for His use.

“Calling” is a tricky subject for Christians.  It sometimes trips us up into a mess of confusion.

We talk about God “calling” me to do this or “calling” me to do that, but we don’t always know what that looks like day in and day out.

And sometimes we miss it entirely.

When I wrote in my book, Anywhere Faith, about following God anywhere He calls us to go, I shared some truths about “calling” because God wants all of us to follow Him, whether that’s around the world, across the street, or in our own homes.

God calls all of us

Your past, your present and your future don’t have to look like anyone else’s in order for God to use you.  anywhere-faith

Maybe He called you to foreign missions or full-time ministry.  Maybe He called you to pray for the teachers at your kids’ school or to help young moms who need encouragement.

If we obsess over what someone else’s calling looks like, we can sometimes miss what He has planned for us.

God uses the ordinary. He uses the everyday and the mundane. He uses the untrained. He uses the sinner who repents and the prodigal who returns. He uses us despite our past and even sometimes because of our past (Anywhere Faith).

Callings don’t have to be (And often aren’t) glamorous or grand.

I’m not a speaker at conferences talking about deliverance from addiction.  Today, I have played Play Doh with my son, scheduled doctor’s appointments for my kids, prayed for my family, written to you, washed dishes and laundry, and performed a million small and seemingly insignificant tasks that are actually ministry.

Sure, the disciples traveled with Jesus, witnessed miracles, and even healed and performed miracles themselves in Christ’s name.

But the calling wasn’t all glitz and glamor.  They packed light and traveled far. They left families and jobs behind to pursue Jesus.

Jesus told them to bend low, to do the dirty jobs, to wash feet, to love outcasts, to touch lepers.

He asks us to humbly serve others every day, too.

Your calling might not be to a stage or arena; it may be to faithfulness at work, witness in your community, and ministry to your family.  Every “calling’ is significant to Him.

God can use you right where you are

We can get so caught up looking for big visions for our future that we miss the ways He asks us to serve today.  I’ve done it myself, praying desperately for God to show me “His will for my life” instead of His will for this moment.

Let’s ask God to show us the next right step and walk that way.  We can trust Him with our future.

 When we talk about calling, let’s remember this:

God isn’t looking for the flashiest vessels; He’s looking for yielded vessels…
He uses the humble, the willing and the obedient (Anywhere Faith).

May we be yielded today, humble today, and obedient today as we follow Him “Anywhere.”

To read more about how to overcome our excuses and insecurities and follow God “Anywhere,” i hope you’ll read my new book Anywhere Faith, which releases on October 3, 2016.

The Picture of #AnywhereFaith

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A few weeks ago at the height of summer, I took my kids to a local water park for the day.

My older girls were slipping down water slides while my two-year-old son and I hung out in a splash area for little kids.

While we were there, I prayed for God’s help as I prepared for the October release of my new book,  Anywhere Faith: Overcome Fear, Insecurity, and Excuses and Say Yes to God. 

I asked God to give me a picture or story to share with others that described what it meant to have “Anywhere Faith.”

At the water park that day, my son, Andrew, found this one particular slide he just loved.  He would climb up the steps, wait in line, slide down, and then run around to get back in line and do it all over again.

But he wasn’t always waiting his turn.  If he thought one of the kids in front of him hesitated for even a split second, Andrew would nudge his way forward and slide right down.

His two-year-old brain was probably thinking: “if you’re not going to go down right now, I sure will!”

Since I want my son to learn about waiting, patience and taking turns, I stationed myself up on the slide platform to make sure he didn’t get in front of the other kids.

That’s when I saw the “Anywhere Faith picture” I’d been praying for.

A little girl, maybe two years old, had discovered the same slide as my son.  She was decked out in her little polka dot bathing suit with frills around her waist and her hair pulled into a tiny ponytail.

Her daddy walked with her up the steps and waited with her while the other kids slid down. Then, just as it was her turn to slide, he’d run back down the steps and around to the bottom so he could catch her.

In the meantime, she positioned herself on the slide, laying down on her belly, feet-first (so she couldn’t even see the bottom) and gripping the top of the water slide with all her might.

She hung there for a few seconds, waiting and waiting and waiting.  No way was she letting go before her daddy was at the bottom of the slide.

Then, she’d hear her daddy say, “Okay, Abby, come on down!”

That was her cue.  Immediately, she let go and splashed down to the bottom where he was waiting to catch her.

When I was a teenager, I discovered a poetic prayer written by the missionary, David Livingstone, that began like this:

Lord send me anywhere,
only go with me

I copied the prayer into the cover of my Bible and truly meant that with all my heart.  I’d go anywhere. anywhere-faith

Of course, God has certainly changed any plans I made as a 16-year-old girl.  He brought me to unexpected places of ministry and service for Him.

I definitely didn’t know as a teenager where my “Anywhere” was.

But I’m still just like the little girl who splashed down a water slide backwards because she knew her daddy called her to come and was there for her.

when God calls my name, I want to let go of anything holding me back and follow him anywhere he asks me to go.

David Livingstone knew He needed God’s presence in order to live in faith.  “Lord send me anywhere only go with me, ” he prayed

That little girl on a water slide knew she needed her dad’s presence so she could let go.

God’s presence is what we need, too, in order to have the faith to follow Him whether it’s around the world, across the street, or in our own homes.

When we remember that God never leaves us nor forsakes us, that He stays with us and walks us through the hardest seasons and the toughest days as well as the everyday and the mundane, we can have the faith to follow Him anywhere.

Sometimes there are things holding us back.

Maybe we’re not sure we heard His voice correctly.

Or we’re afraid of what others will think.

Or perhaps what God is asking us to do doesn’t fit in with our perfectly good 5-year-plan.

That’s okay.  Having Anywhere Faith means trusting God with the honest needs and struggles of our hearts.  We don’t have to pretend to have it all together.

Instead, we tell Him the truth:

“I’m scared.
I’m confused.
I’m worried.
I’m insecure.”

But we also tell Him this:

“I want to be where you are, God.  I’ll follow you anywhere because anywhere with you is better than any place I’d go on my own.”

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you (Psalm 56:3).

 

It’s Time for Some News!

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We all know waiting is hard.

But it’s even harder when you don’t even know when you’re waiting for.

I can mark Christmas on my calendar and cross off all the days as a countdown until we arrive.  Bam.  December 25th.  It’s here!  The wait is over!

Knowing exactly how long you’ll need to wait makes the waiting easier.  Not easy.  But easier.

But when you’re waiting for news about your upcoming book after you’ve sent it to the publisher, and you don’t know exactly when that news might come, you might get a little nervous and maybe a little crazy.

Like waking in the night and wondering whether the publisher read your manuscript, hated it and decided maybe they didn’t want to publish your book after all.

Or maybe you didn’t get an email they sent and when they didn’t hear back from you, they just put your book to the side.

Or any number of wild imaginings.

Then there’s that day after you’ve been praying and not-so-patiently waiting when you see your book cover for the first time.  And you find your book listed on Amazon.

And you just pause to give thanks because God has been faithful all along.  He’s been at work even when you couldn’t see it!

Some of you follow my Author page on Facebook so you’ve already seen the preview of the book cover, but for the rest of you, I wanted to share the most recent tidbits of exciting book-news!!  (If you don’t already follow my Author Page, you can click here to visit, like it, and keep from missing out on future news bulletins.)

Anywhere Faith: Overcome Fear, Insecurity, and Excuses and Say Yes to God will release October 4, 2016.

You can already preorder the book (in paperback) on Amazon if you are so inclined!!  It will be made available for Kindle after the initial release.

This book isn’t so much about obedience as it is about a dialogue with God.  And it’s not about moving to Africa as a missionary or leaving your job to pursue full-time ministry.

It’s about what we say when God calls us every single day in our homes, in our relationships, in our workplace, in our community, and in our ministries.

Do we tell Him we’re not ready? We’re afraid?  We’re not good enough?  We’re too old or too young or too busy or too insufficient?

Or do we say, “Yes, Lord.  I’ll follow you anywhere….”?  Or, as Mary said:

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38 NIV).

We don’t have to pretend with God and we don’t have to be perfect before He can use us.  We can tell Him the deeply honest truth and bring Him our brokenness so He can make us whole and holy.

 

 

 

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

Not again!

hebrews 10-36

My son stepped out on the front porch this morning.

He was, thankfully, fully dressed (not just hanging out in his pajamas or, what’s worse, a t-shirt and diaper).

He even had on his winter coat and his wooly tiger hat.

But he was still wearing his Batman socks.  No shoes.  Just socks.

Who has time for shoes, anyway?  His sisters had just completed the morning dash: shoes, coats, hats and gloves, backpacks, lunch bags.

He tried to sneak outside with them at first.  He wove himself into the line and stared determinedly straight ahead, hoping to avoid my gaze and maybe escape my notice while he slipped out the door.

Of course,  I scooped him up out of the line and told him to say goodbye to the girls.

He cried instead, grabbing at their coats to either make them stay or allow him to go.

Finally, we stood at the door watching for the bus.  He pushed the door open, a little further, a little further, until he finally stepped out onto the damp porch, Batman socks and all.

Then the bus arrived, and he cried some more.

Now, this is not the first day of school.

We are now five months into this school year, halfway to summer vacation.

Still the mornings involve tears and wet Batman socks.

My son doesn’t just have to do the hard thing and say goodbye to his sisters.  He has to do it day after day, week after week, and it never really gets easy or even easier.

I realize as I watch him that sometimes I think obeying God means doing it once and being done.

There.  I obeyed.  Now can I go back to what I wanted to do?

Or I think that doing the hard thing is a one-time sacrifice.

There.  I forgave.  Now I’m over that.

Or, I fixed my attitude.  I took charge of my emotions.  I chose worship over self-pity.  I shut down the lies of insecurity.  I fought for contentment over jealousy.

All done.

But God sometimes asks us to do the hard thing and then to do it again and again.  He asks us to walk in daily obedience, as Eugene Peterson calls it, “a long obedience in the same direction.”

It’s taking that first step of obedience and then keep on keeping on, step after step after step without turning back or giving in or giving up.

We are dying to self daily and loading crosses onto backs morning after morning.

We are choosing forgiveness over bitterness today and tomorrow and the day after that.

I read about Moses meeting with God on that holy mountain:

The Lord came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up (Exodus 19:20 ESV).

Moses was an octogenarian mountain climber, scaling Mt. Sinai for this meeting with God’s glory.

But he didn’t just climb up once.  Oh no.

He gets up to the top and God tells him, “Go down and warn the people…..Go down, and come up bringing Aaron with you….So Moses went down” (Exodus 19:21, 24, 25).

Then he had to go back up and draw “near to the thick darkness where God was” (Exodus 20:21)

Moses then “came and told the people the words of the Lord” and the Lord told Him to come up again (Exodus 24:12) so “Moses rose with his assistant Joshua and Moses went up into the mountain of God.”

Up and down and up and down Moses went.  God called him up.  Moses climbed up.  God sent him down.  Moses walked down.

At some point, I might have said “Enough, God.  I’m good here.  I’m too old and too tired for this.  Just tell me what you want me to know because I don’t want to do the hard thing anymore.  No more climbing the mountain.”

But Moses would have missed God’s glory if he had given up or refused to continue.

And the beautiful, most amazing thing is that while Moses came up, God also came down.

The Lord met Moses there on that mountain.

He does the same for us.

Yes, what He calls us to do might be difficult.

Yes, He might ask us to do it again and again and again.

But God reaches down to us and makes Himself accessible.  He is never an out-of-reach God.

He reveals His glory when we persevere and choose Him over the easy way, Him over quitting, Him over complacency, Him over everything and anything else.

Christmas means God on the move

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Today, I plunked down $0.88 for a new address book.

Then, I laid its 13-year-old, well-worn predecessor to rest.

It was time.

In that old address book, I have crossed out.  I have drawn arrows.  I have swirled over old addresses and entered in new.  I have stuffed envelopes with corrected info into the pages.

This year during ‘Operation Christmas Cards,’ I flipped through that edited mess.  Seven more family members moved this year to new homes in new places.

Most of these are happy moves: The new-job, new-marriage, new-baby kind of celebration.

Others are moves of in-between, of change, of loss and sadness and finding new hope for the future.

Since I have an intense dislike, maybe even horror, of writing in pencil, though, I can’t just erase and start afresh at each new life event.

That’s when I realized the truth.  It wasn’t time for more corrections.  It was time for a completely fresh shart.

It was time to move on.

And it strikes me right at that moment as I fill in the blank pages A-Z, surrounded by Christmas decorations and Christmas cards, that Christmas itself is about moving.

God began that progress, journeying to us:

God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him (1 John 4:9 HCSB).

He makes the first move.  He steps into the void we can’t breach, the abyss of sin we can’t possibly cross, and He leaves the glory of heaven for our sake.

Jesus isn’t the only One who moved that first Christmas, though.

“The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth” (Luke 1:26).

Mary and Joseph loaded up the donkey and trekked slowly “from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the City of David, which is called Bethlehem” (Luke 2:4 HCSB).

The angels arrived on the hillside to announce the Savior’s birth to shepherds and then “left them and returned to heaven” (Luke 2:15 HCSB).

Then, those shepherds in their excitement said, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened” (Luke 2:15 HCSB).

Days later, a man named Simeon was guided by the Spirit and went straight to a GOd-appointed place:  “he entered the temple complex” (Luke 2:27 HCSB).

Wise men from the east searched the night sky and could no longer remain at home, complacent, apathetic, mildly interested but not engaged when they saw the mysterious star.

No, they moved.

They committed to the journey, packing camels, loading supplies, asking questions.

They must have left so much  behind:  Family, possessions, homes, a culture they knew and friends they loved.  Maybe they left position and power in the dust in order to arrive in a foreign land as strangers and outsiders searching for a King they couldn’t describe whose name they didn’t know.

Where were they going?  They did not know.  When would their journey end?  They could not say.

Just like Abram long before, the Magi left their homes to travel to an unknown destination for an uncertain amount of time.

Friends must have called them crazy.  Family might have questioned their sanity.

Yet, they kept moving because a star “led them until it came and stopped above the place where the child was ” (Matthew 2:9 HCSB).

Christmas is about the faith of movement, about faith in action.  No standing still.  No remaining the same.  No stubbornly refusing to leave the old in pursuit of God’s work anew.

In a season steeped in tradition, God shows us that He can do the surprising and unexpected.  He is at work.  He is in motion.

Christmas is angels and shepherds, sages and a teenage girl, the righteous and the ordinary, all abandoning their plans, agendas, comfort, and homes, leaving it all behind so they would not miss what God was doing.

Are we so willing to move?

When God calls, when He is active, when He is at work and He comes to us, will we also go to Him?

I’ve finished filling this new address book now and for a while at least everything is settled and set.

Yet, I’m hushed with expectancy.  I’m at the feet of Christ with anticipation.  I’m asking the question and I’m silent, breathlessly waiting for the answer He gives:

“God, what are you doing and how can I be there?  I don’t want to miss it by refusing to move when you move. Lead me this Christmas.”

 

 

What to do when you don’t find money in the girls’ bathroom

Psalm 20My daughter exited the girls’ bathroom at school looking disappointed.

We were there for an after school program and I was ready to rush on home, but I stopped the frantic backpack grabbing and asked her what was wrong.

“I was hoping I’d find some money in the bathroom.”

Now, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this.

Was there typically money in the girls’ bathroom at school?

Was this an income source I wasn’t aware of?

Did the child so desperately need money that she actually searched public restrooms for stray dollar bills or coins?

No, it turns out she wanted to win the Citizenship Award at school and this particular month’s award was on the character trait: Honesty.

So, this girl of mine thought the best way to win an award for Honesty was to find money in the school bathroom and hand it in.  This seemed like a sure-fire strategy.

Only, no one seemed to be losing their money in the bathroom that month.

Now, I totally applaud the singular focus of this child and the strategic way she was thinking about her actions and how they fit (or didn’t) the character trait of the month.

But at the same time, I feel like our character should be honest, respectful, or kind with or without an award.

If a teacher notices that, then great!  A button and certificate are a special honor.

Yet, Jesus is watching always.  No need to force this or manipulate it into happening.  No need to plan out possible award-winning scenarios or plot out the best avenue for success.

I’m taking this to heart really, because I feel nagged by my own ambition and the expectations of others to force my future.

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Yes, there is wisdom in working hard and working wise.

How often, though, am I trying to force God’s hand?

Am I working myself right out of dependence on His favor and His blessing and right into self-made me?

I have one definition of success: God’s pleasure.

I have one strategy for achieving that: Obedience.

In the Bible, Rebecca knew all along that her younger son (Jacob) would topple the natural order of things and receive his father’s blessing and birthright instead of the older son (Esau).

But she didn’t trust God to make it happen.

Instead, she tricked and lied and cheated her way into “success.”

Oh, Jacob is no innocent, of course.  He was old enough to stand up to his mom when she told him to put on goat hair and his brother’s clothes, take in a meal she had prepared and deceive his blind and aging father into blessing him as the firstborn.

Maybe he remembered what these deceptive tactics cost him.

After all, decades later, Jacob was the aging father blessing his own sons and grandsons when Joseph brought in his two boys, Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 48).

And old-man Jacob kept getting it ‘wrong.’

He treated the younger son like the older son and vice versa.  It was backwards and mixed up.

So, Joseph tried to correct his dad.  “No, dad, this is my oldest son and that one is the younger.”

Jacob wouldn’t budge, though.

See how God did that?

God spoke and it was.  The younger son received the older son’s blessing without props, costumes, a grand deception or Rebecca’s elaborate schemes.

God just did it because He wanted to do it.

Beth Moore says,

The significant point is that when God seems to be prompting something out of the ordinary, we don’t have to manipulate things to make it happen and cause people to accept it. (Believing God, p. 96).

What freedom is this?

If God has declared it, He will do it. We can be part of that plan, but the plan never depends on us to make it happen; it all depends on Him.

If God has called you, obey by taking the next step and stop worrying about the end destination.

Our job is simply obedience, the beautiful call to trust and obey.  We take those steps of faith, we give our every effort to answer His calling, but we leave the results in His hands.

If we see money in the bathroom, we hand it in.  But we don’t stress over it if the money isn’t there!

We write.  We work.  We minister.  We stay faithful.  But we don’t try to manipulate results or manufacture ‘success.’

We just live honest.  Live faithful.  Live disciplined.  Live holy.  Live with compassion and mercy.  Live humbly.

Live for Jesus.

And leave our lives and our future all in His quite-capable hands.

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2015 Heather King

 

If you want to get there, first you have to be here

galatians 6

My five-year-old has taken to the piano like a hummingbird to nectar.

She watched her older sisters play for years and could not wait for her turn to tackle those first assignments in the beginner piano book.

Of course, it starts out so easy. Follow the pictures, plunk down the right finger and ‘presto’—a song! It might only be ten notes long, but it’s still a song and she aced it with no effort at all.

Then the lesson grew a little harder. She needed to read actual notes and sometimes those notes went in unexpected directions.

You mean not all songs use just four keys?

After one mistake, she collapsed into deep sobbing. I finally calmed her down enough to understand what she was saying. “I (sob) can’t (sob) do (sob) it (big, big, big sobbing).”

I’m her teacher and her mom, though, and I know better.

I know that one wrong note the first time you play the song does not mean you can’t do it.

I tried to tell her, “When you play the piano, sometimes you hit some wrong notes. You don’t play every song perfectly the first time you play it. You have to make mistakes and fail sometimes, but you just don’t give up. You practice and practice and work hard and then you get it right.”

After that award-winning Mom-advice, she looked right at me and whined, “I don’t want to play the piano then.”

She was ready to give up, ready to pack it all in and call this whole experiment in piano playing a complete failure at the grand old age of five years old because it took a little effort and because failure was part of the learning experience.

Have you felt like giving up recently?

Have you made a few mistakes and decided maybe God should pick someone else for this job?

I’ve been there so many times before.

I’ve looked around at where I’m at and how hard it is, and I’ve thought, “I’ve gone far enough.  I’ve exerted enough effort.  It’s just too costly and time-consuming and emotionally draining and I think I need to stop.  Take a vacation.  Escape.  Quit and do something easier.  Settle for something less.  I just can’t do this anymore, God.  I’m not seeing any results, blessing or reward, so this just doesn’t seem worth it.”

Sometimes it’s just fine with me to stay on the beginner lessons and never move on to mastery.

Because this is just too hard.

But, God’s our Teacher and our Father and He knows better.

He knows that sometimes we grow tired and weary and that in those moments, it’s difficult to remember the vision He gave us or the call He placed on our hearts.

He knows sometimes we want to pack it in and curl up in His lap for a rest.

He knows that sometimes the only way we learn is to make a mistake or two, to try again, to practice and practice and inch our way forward….but that what we really want is instant victory.

If that’s you today and you feel like giving up and giving in, look ahead.

I tell my daughter not to give up because one day she wants to play this song and that song and she wants to play harder music and beautiful pieces.

And if you want to get there, first you need to be here.  

Here might be hard.
Here might be costly.
Here might be lonely.
Here might be exhausting.
Here might seem unimportant or it might seem to be taking forever and can’t we move on to something new now because frankly I’m tired of waiting and I’d rather just skip to the end?!

When all you can see is the difficulty of the moment, it’s hard to keep going.

Remember the goal.

Then take the next step.

You can’t conquer everything in a day.  It wont always be easy. You’ll falter.  You’ll have to persevere.  But that next step…the one right there infront of you….that’s all you need to do today.

So, take heart.

Do not give up.

“But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded” (2 Chronicles 15:7, NIV).

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9, 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 book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Dear Son, Let Me Explain How Shape Sorters Work

james 1Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_riddy'> / 123RF Stock Photo</a>Dear Son,

Let me explain how shape sorters work.

The circle shape only fits in the circle hole.

You can’t cram it or squeeze it into the square.  You can’t bang repeatedly, slamming that circle down until it finally fits into the triangle.

The circle block really and truly does only fit through the circle hole.

Sad, perhaps, but nonetheless true.

I know you think we’re foolish about this, that maybe we parents just don’t know all there is to know about shape sorters.

Maybe that’s why when we tried to point out to you the circle hole, you scowled and screamed.

Or when we set an example for you, modeling how easily that circle slid into the circle hole, you threw the block.

Or when we tried to gently move your hand to the correct space, you pulled your hand back, cried and cried and insisted on continuing your attack on the square hole with the circle.

Baby boy, here’s the lesson now and, oh, how much frustration and anger, disappointment and failure it will save you later if you learn this right here:  Mom and Dad really know best most of the time.

Even more than that, it’s wise to seek advice and counsel.  When you’re learning something new, ask the experts.

Sure you can stamp your feet in stubborn pride and insist on your own way.

But fifteen minutes and a full-blown tantrum later, you’ll still be holding a circle block in your hand that doesn’t fit through the square hole.

When you don’t know what to do or how to do it, stop plowing on ahead in bull-headed determination to do it your own way.

Ask God.

Ask Him.

James 1:5 says:

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you (NIV).

Did you see the promise in the verse?  God isn’t stingy about wisdom.

He’s generous.  

You ask Him what to do and He will respond with abundance.

And, He’s not up there criticizing your request or complaining about coming to your rescue….again…..won’t this guy every learn?  Sigh.  Tsk….tsk….tsk…..what a disappointment.

No, God gives generously to all “without finding fault.”

Sometimes we forget to ask.  We think this is a no-brainer, an easy decision and one we can surely handle on our own.

Or maybe we don’t ask because we know what He’ll say.  We know the advice we’ll receive isn’t really what we want to hear.

So, we avoid asking.

We avoid wisdom.

Because then we’d have to listen and then it would come straight down to what it’s really all about anyway: Obedience. Submission.  Faith.

Surrender.

Giving in and giving up and giving it all over to the only One who truly knows what’s best.

David knew better.

Max Lucado writes:

 The first time he faced the Philistines in the wilderness, David ‘inquired of the Lord’ (23:2). When he felt small against his enemy, ‘David inquired of the Lord” (23:4) When attacked by the Amalekites, ‘David inquired of the Lord” (30:8). Puzzled about what to do after the death of Saul, ‘David inquired of the Lord’ (2 Samuel 2:1).  When crowned as king and pursued by the Philistines, ‘David inquired of the Lord” (5:19).  David defeated them, yet they mounted another attack, so ‘David inquired of the Lord” (5:23).  David kept God’s number on speed dial. (Facing Your Giants)

It was David’s go-to method.  Ask God.  Then listen.  And obey.

But there’s a moment in David’s life when he didn’t pause to call 1-800-ASK-LORD.

He was so overwhelmed by Saul’s relentless attempts to murder him, that he:

said in his heart, ‘Now I shall perish one day by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will despair of seeking me any longer within the borders of Israel, and I shall escape out of his hand.”

He asked himself.  He decided in his own heart what was best.  He looked around, considered the circumstances and thought, ‘there is nothing better for me than this….”

Maybe God really had a much better plan.  Maybe God could have protected and preserved David without the mess that awaited him in the land of the Philistines.

Never for a moment think you’re wise enough or strong enough to decide what’s best for your life without first asking God.

Never for a moment think that your plan and your way and your desire for your own life is better than God’s plan and His ways and His purpose for you.

Never for a moment yank your hand back from God’s guidance.

He sees the big picture.  He knows:  Here is the circle…..here is where it goes.  Trust me.

Love,

Mom

“The One who laid earth’s foundations and settled its dimensions knows where the lines are drawn.  He gives all the light we need for trust and for obedience” (Elisabeth Elliot, Through Gates of Splendor)

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

Announcing a Winner and Redefining Gentleness

Last week, I announced that I’d be giving away a copy of Mary Ann Froehlich’s book, Courageous Gentleness, and today I’m announcing the winner!  I used a random number generator to chose the winner from the comments you shared and the winner is:  Lisa Preuett.  Congratulations!  I’ll get the book on out to you!

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“Mom, why do turtles have shells?”

My youngest daughter draped herself across the sofa, seemingly inert and bored, but truly thinking about the great mysteries of the world.

“The shell keeps their soft body safe and protected.”

“Oh.  Okay, mom.”

So far, so good.  Her questions simple, her mind and heart trusting and easily satisfied by easy answers.

My middle daughter was never so quick to accept and move on.  A conversation with her could go something like this:

“Mom, why do turtles have shells?”
“To protect their soft bodies from harm.”
“Why are they in danger and need protection?”
“Other animals might try to catch and eat them, or they might be stepped on or run over…
“Why do some animals like to eat turtles?
“Some animals are herbivores and eat only plants and some are carnivores and eat meat.  Turtles are meat.”
“Why do animals eat other animals?”
“Because after the fall in the garden of Eden….”

Falling back on theology or “because God said so” became my frequent defensive position.

This curiosity about the world, I love.  This exploring and questioning and wondering “what if” and “how come”–while it occasionally makes me explode and bluster out  “because galatians5-22, photo by Wacharaphong Sakoolwongveroj; God made it that way” or “because I said”– ultimately I appreciate.

Ultimately I understand.

I’m a questioner, too.  I want to know “why” and “how come” and “what about” and “why not?”  I want to pester God with question after question like a three-year-old first discovering the world around her.

More than that, more than asking God true and honest questions, I nag and whine and push and nudge.

Oh, and it’s even more than that.  I’ve been Jacob up all night wrestling the angel of the Lord.  I’ve locked my grip with God’s and fought hard for what I thought constituted a blessing, for a victory, for triumph over circumstances and over the Enemy who’s been battering at the walls of my life.

Yes, I’ve pummeled the chest of Christ with my fists, fighting and demanding, manipulating even, making promises, issuing threats, and crying for mercy, help, deliverance—for rescue.

I’m being honest with Him, I tell myself, and honesty is something God treasures in us.  He never asks us to fake it or play happy-faced Christian when life is a mess and this mask we wear becomes increasingly ill-fitting.

God desires truth.  Job, Habakkuk, David, Asaph, Elijah, Jonah, Mary and Martha laid their complaints before God, plead their case, and He listened and answered with awe-inspiring mercy.

He didn’t strike them down with lightning.  He let them empty out hearts filled with fear, hurt and anger and then He answered, not always in the way they expected or wanted, but still He met them in the place of pain and questioning and carried them on out.

Now, though, I’ve been studying the fruit of the Spirit and found I didn’t really get it before.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23, NIV).

Gentleness is on that list.  All those years of sermons and Sunday school lessons and I thought this meant “being nice, not hurting others with our words, kindness and tact.”

The Message translation however, describes gentleness as: “not needing to force our way in life.”

Is this Gentleness?

In Living Beyond Yourself: Exploring the Fruit of the Spirit, Beth Moore defines the root word here “praotes” as “the complete surrender to God’s will and way in your life.  The term basically means to stop fighting God” (p. 178).

Gentleness is submission to God, His will and His way, His plan and His timing and all He has determined for us.

It means dropping to our knees and pouring out the honest struggles of our heart, but deciding at last, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

It’s singing with true conviction, “Have Thine own way, Lord,” and “I surrender all.”

No more fighting God.

How then can I still be honest with Him?  How can a prize-fighter like me lower the hands and open the fists, cease fighting and nagging and choose instead to trust?

There is my answer in the verse itself, “but the fruit of the Spirit is…” not the fruit of my own discipline or maturity, strength or ability.

This is what the Spirit at work and alive within me does—the impossible, the new, the Christ-like—As I yield and grow in the Spirit, so slowly I trust more, believe more, fall in love with Jesus more and understand how much He loves me more.

And I stop fighting Him.

I drop the knee, I bow the head, I cry the tear, I confess the pain, I trust my God and the Spirit works out Gentleness in me.

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