Ready and waiting

“I can’t serve anyone who isn’t sitting down.”

That’s what I say in my teacher’s voice when I’m dishing up snack to a group of  kids.

Something about snack brings out the jittery excitement in most of us.  We want to stand up to see what we’re having, what flavor, how much, is one serving bigger than the others and could we possibly have the  biggest one?

Snack time protocols can be pretty basic, but we cover them almost every single time the goldfish crackers and apple juice come out:

Wash your hands.  Sit in your seat.  Wait quietly.  No, you can’t have seconds until everyone else gets their first serving.

We’re just so eager.

I am so eager.

When I feel hungry…  When I feel need… When I think that maybe provision will come and I wonder if I will get my share or if maybe I’ll be overlooked and remain empty. .. When I am anxious because I just don’t know and I feel like the answer won’t come.

That’s when I want to leap out of my seat and take some control.  I want to make my need known, just in case God missed seeing it.   I want to be sure He didn’t forget me or abandon me and He won’t leave me behind.

Maybe I even worry too often about getting my own “fair share,” too concerned with the sizes of others’ portions to be content with my own overflowing cup.

I read today an oh-so-familiar story, about how Jesus looked out over a hillside teeming with people.  They had followed Him out when He sought rest.  No one planned this extended teaching  time.  It just happened.

They looked for Jesus and when they found Him, He loved them enough to  teach and teach and teach until the hour was late, and they were far from their homes.  No one had packed any food except one little boy with a simple fish-and-bread lunch.  (John 6:1-15)

This story reminds me that Jesus is able.  That small numbers and meager circumstances cannot hinder Him from miraculous provision.  I am reminded that He is an abundant, exponentially multiplying God, and that none of us could imagine in advance how He could feed over 5000 people with a boy’s packed lunch and still have baskets full of leftovers.

And this story reminds me to give Jesus what I have even though it could never ever be enough.   I am the simple boy who can choose to offer what I have to Christ—meager as it is.  I don’t selfishly hoard it. I don’t hide it away in embarrassment.  I give it to Him because He is forever sufficient in my insufficiency.

But today, I read the story again and there is a new reminder.

In her book, “Living Beyond Yourself,” Beth Moore  shares the step Jesus took that day on the hillside:

  • He made them aware of their need.
  • He took what little they had.
  • He placed them in a posture to rest in His provision.  He commanded them to “sit down” and fed only those who were “seated” (vv. 10-11)
  • He gave them “immeasurably more” than they could “ask or imagine.” Eph. 3:20

This is the question I ask myself all day today:

How can I—in the  midst of all of the everyday messes and the overwhelming worries—posture my heart in a place of rest?

Today, I struggled with a parenting decision, with a ministry decision, with a scheduling decision, with an organizing of my day decision and I was tangled up  in my own need for clear answers, for assurances, and for provision.

My heart paces.  I position myself to fix and control and make everything right all on my own limited strength.

Mostly, I fight this feeling of urgency, this pushiness I have to get answers now and see the results yesterday and have the blessings in hand already.

When can I see the abundance in place of the need?

But what if Jesus is poised with baskets in His hand, provision at the ready, abundance in waiting, and He simply asks that I sit?

Am I sitting down?  Am I ready to receive?

The little boy with the lunch box gave everything over to Jesus, his tiny lunch, his small offering, but then he sat and waited to see what the Lord would do.

Oh, the sitting and the waiting, they don’t come naturally to me.  So, I think it through today when the worries come—how can I sit in this situation, how can I posture myself to rest in Him, how can I wait and see what the Lord will do?

“Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him…” (Psalm 37:7a NASB)

 

Bible Verses about Times of Quiet

  • Exodus 14:14 ESV
    The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
  • Job 6:24 ESV
    “Teach me, and I will be silent;
        make me understand how I have gone astray.
  • Psalm 4:4 ESV
    Be angry, and do not sin;
        ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah
  • Psalm 37:7 ESV
    Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
        fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
        over the man who carries out evil devices!
  • Psalm 46:10 ESV
    “Be still, and know that I am God.
        I will be exalted among the nations,
        I will be exalted in the earth!”
  • Proverbs 11:12 ESV
    Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense,
        but a man of understanding remains silent.
  • Proverbs 17:28 ESV
    Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise;
        when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.
  • Proverbs 29:11 ESV
    A fool gives full vent to his spirit,
        but a wise man quietly holds it back.
  • Ecclesiastes 3:7 ESV
    a time to tear, and a time to sew;
    a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
  • Isaiah 26: 3 ESV
    You keep him in perfect peace
        whose mind is stayed on you,
        because he trusts in you.
  • Isaiah 30:15 ESV
    For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
    “In returning[ and rest you shall be saved;
        in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”
    But you were unwilling,
  • Lamentations 3:26 ESV
    It is good that one should wait quietly
        for the salvation of the Lord.
  • Zephaniah 3:17 ESV
    The Lord your God is in your midst,
        a mighty one who will save;
    he will rejoice over you with gladness;
        he will quiet you by his love;
    he will exult over you with loud singing.
  • James 1:19 ESV
    Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
  • 1 Peter 3:3-4 ESV
    Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

The Remarkable Exploits of Flash the Snail (and how I need to have more patience)

We have  named our pet snail: “Flash.”

I know what you’re wondering.

You have a pet snail?

Yes, yes we do.   On our last trip to the pet store to pick out some more fish for our aquarium, we spotted snails.

“How cool is that?” I thought.  They keep your tank clean and their shells are pretty.

Nice.

So, my daughter picked out a yellow snail to add to our tank.   His original name was “Sunny,” aptly named by my eight-year-old.

But then I discovered that this little guy was actually a superhero in disguise.  Certainly, he is no ordinary snail.

Snails are, after all, slow.

Our snail, on the other hand, has near-teleportation ability.   I wake up in the morning, pad out to the fish tank with my eyes still full of sleep.  I flick on the tank light and do the same thing I do every morning:  I find the snail.

Then, having found him in the bottom  left corner of the tank hanging out on some pebbles, I slip into the kitchen and make my tea.

By the time I return to  the tank, our snail is gone.  I play Find-the-Snail again and discover he is now at the top right corner of the tank attached to the heater.

This. Is. Amazing.

That’s what I think as I stand there with my tea.  We have a super snail.  Definitely.

So, after about a week of discovering the extraordinary speed of our pet snail, I finally explain to  my daughter that “Sunny” is a cute name, but our snail is something super and that merits a superhero name.

Hence, Sunny the Snail became Flash the Snail that day.

Here’s the wondrous thing about our amazing snail:  We almost never see him move.

In fact, I’ve only caught him in motion once when I flicked on the tank light in the morning and he was zooming across the bottom of our tank.

But most of the time, his motion in our little fish tank is unseen.   He is here one second and somewhere else after you blink.

We don’t see the progress or the actual moving.  We don’t see him slip out of his shell and scoot around.

We see big change.  Big moves.  Big progress.  That’s what shows up on our radar.

That’s what most of us want, after all.

BIG change.  BIG moves.  BIG progress.  We want all that and we want it fast, right away,  now, now,  now.

God, though, doesn’t get caught up in our forever-rushing or in our frenetic pushing to arrive already and be done with the journey.

God does slow progress.

He does stillness.

He does quiet and rest and the kind of change that lasts because it’s so deep and that takes time.

He doesn’t want us to have the facade of goodness.  He wants us to have goodness within.

He doesn’t want us to appear productive.  He wants us to mature and bear abundant, fully-ripe fruit.

Lysa TerKeurst wrote:

“In all of this remember, bearing fruit takes time.  Fruit doesn’t just pop up overnight.  Fruit comes in seasons.  Just because we don’t see tangible fruit in an area of our lives right now doesn’t e mean that God isn’t working.  Our job is to abide.  Remain.  Let’s keep doing that and watch to see how God might work in our lives” (Finding I AM).

While I want to be Flash the Snail most of the time, what I’m forgetting is that he is only fast for a a snail.  He doesn’t actually  teleport across my tank and appear in random places.  He pushes and pulls and meanders his way along, exerting energy and persevering without quitting until he arrives at his chosen destination (usually my tank heater).

So, let’s keep going, too.

Let’s not give up too soon or throw it all in because we just want to see the fruit already!  No more waiting! No more slow baby steps forward and a few falls back!  No more feeling like others are passing us along the way!  No more frustration with the process of bearing fruit.

The Psalmist tells us:

but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

3He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

We yield our fruit in season when we worry less about the fruit itself and focus more on God  Himself, meditating on His word, delighting in His presence.

The fruit will  come, and it will be ripe, abundant, God-tended fruit if we let God work in our hearts over time instead of rushing impatiently to the harvest.

 

 

How our hearts long for home

Way back in September, my son screamed and kicked as I carried him back into the house after his sisters climbed onto the big yellow school bus.

He still struggled some mornings well into the spring,  especially after spring break.

This morning, partway through June, he once again stomped around the house with his chin tucked down to his chest and his arms criss-crossed after the girls walked out the door.

All this morning I tried to explain summer break to him, painting it as vividly as I could.  This is the very last day in the school  year.  The girls will get to be with us more and we’ll  have adventures together and time at home with each other.

But he still grumped around for at least 30 minutes because that didn’t make sense to him.  The “Promised Land” of summer was closer than he ever realized, but still too far away to be real.

I  sympathize with him.  I know what it’s like to long for the promise fulfilled and to be oh so close, but not quite there yet.

On Monday, I  walked through our soon-to-be new house and signed off saying it’s fixed up the way we want.

Then I drove back home to our current house, dug out yet another item I had already packed in a box,  and continued the waiting for word of our closing date.

So, longing for what’s right around the corner but not being able to fully relax and celebrate?  I’m right there with you, son.

This insatiable longing for what is to come makes me wonder, though, why I don’t ache more often for “home.”

All of us should be longing for heaven.  It should be a deep stirring within us because absolutely nothing we achieve or receive on this planet will fill up that gnawing need for eternity with Jesus.

Before He died, Jesus comforted His disciples with these words:

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also (John 14:1-3 ESV).

Our heart’s truest desire should be this: to be with Christ in that place He’s prepared for us.

We can live like Abraham, who was willing to  abide in tents because “he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, who designer and builder is God”  (Hebrews 11:10 ESV).

He didn’t need a palace, a mansion, or a luxury condo.  Instead, he was satisfied with a tent because he had heaven in mind.

And those other ancestors of faith looked forward also.  The Bible says, “They desire a better country, that is,  a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:15).

Isn’t this what we desire, too?

When we  hear the news yet again:

Divorce.   Abuse.  Neglect.  Death.  Cancer.   Pain.  Injustice.  Starvation and famine.  Poverty.

Don’t we ache with the way this doesn’t fit?  It’s not right?  This isn’t God’s best?

And that’s when we remember to cry out:  Come, Lord Jesus!  We long for you so!

We long for heaven.  This yearning for the eternal is deep within us and it should drive who we are.

It should stir us to PATIENCE with the now when God asks us to wait because we keep looking forward to His promises fulfilled.

It stir us to  ACT.  Stand up for what is right.  Pursue righteousness.  Offer mercy.  Live justly.  Because the Kingdom of God is  something we can live now in anticipation of perfection in heaven.

Eternity doesn’t begin for Christians after we die.  Eternity begins the moment we accept Christ as Lord.  I’m already living in my “forever with the Lord” and that means pursuing Jesus’s presence here and now.

And it should stir us to PRAY:  To come before Him with hearts crushed and broken by sin and evil.  We seek the hope that only Jesus can bring: the assurance that this isn’t all  there is.

He is indeed preparing a place for us.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4 ESV).

“This world is not my home; I’m just a-passing through.”

There’s No Surprising Him

galatians-4

When my older girls were preschoolers, we’d keep every activity a secret until the last possible second.

If I planned to take them to the zoo, they’d find out that morning at 8:30 when I put on their sneakers and packed the cooler.

If Grandma was coming for a visit, they found out when she pulled in the driveway.  Maybe, just maybe, I’d be generous enough to clue them in a few hours before she arrived.  But that was it.  No more advance notice than that.

This parental strategy was for several reasons.

  1. Sometimes plans change, so I kept things secret so no promises were broken or kids felt disappointed.
  2. My children would pester me every hour of every day if they knew something exciting was going to happen.  “How much longer?  How many days?  How many hours…minutes….seconds?”

One year, I kept the secret that Grandma was coming right up until the night before her visit when some unforeseen event dragged the news out of me at bedtime.

Disaster ensued.  Huge childhood drama.

My oldest daughter wailed, grumped, and grew outrageously angry at me for keeping the secret.

I had not given her acceptable planning time.  She informed me, “Had I known Grandma was coming, I would have made her a project.  I had time to make a project today. Tomorrow will be too busy and I will not have time.  You should have told me!”

Oh sweet daughter, I understand.

I do truly hate surprises.  I love my planning and processing time. Springing anything on me is just asking for a meltdown and a whole lot of trouble.

Surprises rock our world a bit, even good ones.  We’re thrown off balance and take time to adjust.

And isn’t Christmas all about surprises?

Zechariah was simply performing his priestly duties when an angel appeared unexpectedly and delivered the news that he and his wife would be parents.

Gabriel arrived in the middle of an average, ordinary day and announced to a young girl named Mary that she would be the mother of the Messiah.

Joseph was sleeping when the angel told him the news in a dream.

Shepherds gathered on the hills outside of Bethlehem to watch over the sheep just as they did every single night.  But on this night, the angels declared their Savior had come.

A people who had spent hundreds of years praying for the Messiah, searching for the Messiah, waiting and longing for the Messiah were completely surprised when the Messiah came.

It’s altogether an astonishing tale.  Everyone waking up on an average day, going about their average ways, and then the most extraordinary happens: An encounter with an angel.  A miraculous sign.

God at work in their midst.

There’s only one member of this entire Christmas account who isn’t stunned and surprised by the Messiah’s birth.

God Himself.

And this brings me great comfort.

None of this was a surprise to God.

Not our need for a Savior. Not the timing.  Not that He’d send His Son to be born of a virgin in a tiny town.  Not that His Son would die on a cross to save His people from their sins.

He knew all of it.

The very first Christmas verse I can find in the Bible isn’t in the Gospels at all.  It’s in Genesis.

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
    and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15 ESV). 

The moment Adam and Eve sinned, God declared the plan of salvation, the war with Satan, and Christ’s ultimate victory.

Sometimes surprises can send me into a mad scramble.  Life takes unexpected turns.  An average ordinary day can catapult me into a crisis with a single phone call.

It feels precarious and frightening to teeter-totter every moment, never knowing when my perfect plan will be bumped into.

But this is what I know:

Even when I don’t have a plan, God does.

Nothing sends Him into a frantic search for a Plan B.  Nothing stresses Him out or tosses Him into crisis mode because He didn’t see that coming.

God knew we’d need a Savior all along and He knew exactly how to save us.

God always knows what we’re going through and what we need.  Even when we’re surprised, He is not.

So we can rest from our vigil of anxiety and loosen our tight-fisted grip on control.

Christmas reminds us that we can trust Him with today and again with tomorrow.

He has perfect plans and perfect timing and we are perfectly cared for by a God who rescues and saves.

20 Bible Verses and a Prayer on Patience

verses-patience

  • Psalm 37:7 ESV
    Be still before the Lord
        and wait patiently for him;
    do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
        when they carry out their wicked schemes.
  • Psalm 40:1 NIV
    I waited patiently for the Lord;
        he turned to me and heard my cry.
  • Proverbs 14:29 ESV
    Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding,
        but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.
  • Proverbs 16:32 NIV
    Better a patient person than a warrior,
        one with self-control than one who takes a city.
  • Habakkuk 2:3 ESV
    For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
        it speaks of the end
        and will not prove false.
    Though it linger, wait for it;
        it will certainly come
        and will not delay.
  • 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 ESV
    Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogantor rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful
  • Romans 8:25 NIV
    But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
  • Romans 12:12 ESV
    Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
  • 2 Corinthians 6:4-6 NIV
    Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love
  • Galatians 5:22 NIV
    But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness
  • Ephesians 4:2 ESV
    with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love
  • Colossians 3:12 ESV
    Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:14 NIV
    And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
  • 1 Timothy 1:16 NIV
     But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.
  • 2 Timothy 2:24 NIV
    And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.
  • Hebrews 6:15 NIV
    And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.
  • James 5:7-8 NIV
    Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.
  • James 5:10 NIV
    Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
  • 2 Peter 3:9 ESV
    The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
  • Revelation 2:3 NIV
    You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary

Devotions for Christmas: Joseph teaches me to pause, count to ten, pray and pray again

I’ve been hit in the face with a hockey puck.

A basketball bounced off my head a few times in elementary school and broke my glasses at least once.

A softball came hurtling at me when I was about 13 or so and slammed into my side.

Most people, you know, see balls zooming through the air straight toward their face and do smart things like step aside or jump out of the way or duck.christmas3

Not me.

Given the choice between fright or flight, I just choose freeze.

It’s pretty much a guarantee that if forced to make a decision in a moment of pressure, I’ll choose the most stupid thing you can possibly do.

Now you know not to pick me for your kickball team.

I need time, lots of time, to ponder and consider a response to any situation, question, or problem.  I can’t just hit that reply on the email message and I generally avoid the phone which requires instant feedback.  A comfortable phone conversation for me would look like this:

“Heather, what do you think about _______?”

“I don’t know.  Let me think about it and I’ll email you back later.”

That, of course, defeats the whole purpose of the initial phone call, which was to handle the problem quickly.

But I don’t do quickly.  Quickly for me results in broken glasses, a hockey puck in the face and a sore back where the softball slammed into me.

Quickly results in foolish decisions, words I wish I hadn’t said, poor judgment, and costly mistakes.

The world, though, is in a rush and I feel the pushing and the pressure like everyone else to respond, decide, make things happen, be a mover and a shaker and a go-getter!

Yet, I read this Christmas story and consider anew what God can teach me from a carpenter and a teenage girl called out by God to participate in this miracle of God-in-human-flesh.

God chose a simple hard-working man named Joseph, maybe one who knew so well not to rush the measuring, or the cutting, or smoothing over of the splintered surface.

Choose your wood wisely.  Go with the grain.  Etch out the plan before carving.

Perhaps those are the lessons Joseph knew from years as a carpenter.

In Scripture, he doesn’t talk, not once.  We never hear him fret to God about the news that his fiancee was pregnant and not by him….or ask Mary to explain herself ….or welcome shepherds and kings to the Savior’s birth…or even spill out words of wisdom to the little boy named Jesus.

He takes his time, this Joseph, doesn’t spit out words right away and apologize for them later.

He’s the strong, silent type.

And when he hears the news of Mary’s pregnancy, he doesn’t rush to accuse or punish.  Instead,

 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:19-20 NIV).

In The Women of Christmas, Liz Curtis Higgs writes:

“Joseph did not act in haste.  He thought things through.  Prayed things through.  He ‘contemplated’ (NET); he ‘pondered’ (MOUNCE).  When at last Joseph decided to sleep on it, ‘God graciously directed him what to do'” (The Women of Christmas, p. 105).

Joseph considered, contemplated, pondered.Wreath of Snow_cvr.indd

May we do the same.

And, while I fail and fail again at making quick decisions, still I balk when God asks me to wait and whine about the uncertainty of next steps and needed direction.

I hate to be pushed and pressured, and yet I push and pressure God.

Quickly, Lord, faster, faster.  Show me, move me, use me, deliver me….now, now, now!

Pause.

Count to ten.

Pray and pray again.

Ponder, consider, contemplate….choose the wood wisely, go with the grain, measure and plan before cutting and shaping.

That’s what He says to me as I tap my foot impatiently.

He is, after all, a Master Carpenter:

For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything (Hebrews 3:4).

The Nazarene carpenter named Joseph teaches me more about the Heavenly Carpenter who builds and shapes my very own life into the masterpiece of His own choosing and planning.  And it requires patience, so much patience.

I must take my time to respond to others, breathe in before answering, consider before replying.

and

I must trust the timing of my God, trust His touch, the way He sands down my roughness and slices off those unwieldy edges with patient care.

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

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Christmas Devotions: Easy Bake Faith, Anna and Simeon

Originally posted on December 23, 2011

Last year, my oldest girl was asked one question repeatedly by friends and family alike.

What do you want for your birthday?

I grimaced every time I heard her consistent answer.

An Easy Bake Oven.

It was the one true desire of her little girl heart, an oven all her own to create delicious treats, host tea parties and open restaurants.

This mystified me.  I am a baking mom.  We often huddle around the kitchen table taking turns pouring ingredients from a recipe into a bowl, mixing and stirring, filling trays and pans and then licking spoons.  We’re the four musketeers of cooking, a team of kitchen queens.

Why, I asked my girl, did she need a mini oven of her own?  Why did we need to spend $6 on a mix that produced two sugar cookies of doubtful quality when we could bake dozens of scrumptious cookies for less money in our own regular oven?

My logic was impeccable, unanswerable, indisputable.

But the commercial conspiracy defeated me.  In the end, a friend bought her the Easy Bake.  It made my daughter’s day and proudly assumed its place on our kitchen counter.

I know what you’re thinking.

How long before the precious Easy Bake Oven joined the rank of unused toys shoved in the closet?

Never.

She still loves her oven and is inspired to create with it as often as I give into the whining request to use it.  It still confuses me as she happily mixes and bakes in her own personal oven.  Fortunately, she also eats the cookies since I consider them inedible.

Then she declares that it is in fact the best thing she’s ever eaten.

I try not to be offended.

So why does this Easy Bake Oven bring her so much joy?

It’s the independence of it.  The feeling that she made this cookie herself.  The power of self-determination and personal creation.

It’s the speed of it.  After the light bulb is heated up, it’s only a matter of minutes before her own personal cookie emerges fully cooked.

And who can blame her for loving this?  Aren’t we so often entranced by advertisements for the perfect “toy” that will bring us independence and speed?

In just two easy steps you can have fantastic creations just like this!  You can look like this!  You can make your own!

Anna and Simeon, though, knew that God mostly desires dependence and patience.

Simeon was “righteous and devout” (Luke 2:25) and he spent his life waiting for “the consolation of Israel”—the Messiah, and “the Holy Spirit was on him” (Luke 2:25).

Pause there for a moment.  The Holy Spirit didn’t live in each and every Christian on the earth at that time—because Christians didn’t exist yet.  Jesus was still being rocked to sleep at night by a doting mother.

Yet, Simeon walked so closely with God that the Holy Spirit found a unique dwelling place in him and revealed that Simeon wouldn’t die without seeing the Messiah’s face.  Then, “moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts” (Luke 2:26).

While we might wish for that uniquely intimate relationship with the Lord, we might balk at the requirement to surrender all of our independence.

Simeon did just that.  He moved into the temple and, as a result, was in exactly the right place at the right time when Mary and Joseph carried Jesus to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord.

Anna, a prophetess, had moved into the temple also.  She had been a young widow after only seven years of marriage, but instead of remarrying and settling into the busy life of a wife and mom, she instead “never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying” (Luke 2:37).

Anna surrendered everything in order to devote herself to her relationship with God.  And He blessed her willful dependence on Him.

She was there that day also when Jesus entered the temple for the first time.  Simeon lifted baby Jesus into his own arms, praised and prophesied. Anna walked over to them just at that moment and “gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38).

Just like Anna and Simeon, we can devote ourselves to seeing God, but we can’t pursue our own independent, quick-solution agendas in order to achieve spiritual growth, answers to prayer, fulfilled promises, or the revelation of His will.

We can’t have Easy Bake faith.

Instead, we must abandon our own course and commit ourselves to a patient and passionate pursuit of Him.

That’s what Anna and Simeon did.  They didn’t run after every false Messiah that the world touted and promoted.  They fasted, prayed, and worshiped in the night and in the day for decades.  They made their relationship with God their highest priority and their only true desire,

And thus they saw God.

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

 

When the Wax Melts

Betty Ramsey won the first prize for her tulips year after frustrating year.

Lucy Ricardo decided this was the year to change that tradition.  She tended her garden carefully and begged her husband to mow the lawn before the judges came by to evaluate her flower-bed.

He promised to do it, but quit halfway through, playing hookie so he could go to a baseball game instead.

Inevitably, Lucy cranked the lawnmower up with her friend Ethel’s help.  Then she hopped on and zoomed across the yard, totally unable to stop, and ultimately mowing most of the state of Connecticut (it seemed).  The worst part is that she also mowed over Betty Ramsey’s prize flowers.

Of course Lucy wanted to win that blue ribbon for her garden, but not by knocking off the heads of Betty’s tulips. What would Betty Ramsey think?

So, in a classic “Lucy” brainstorm, she planted wax flowers in Betty’s garden, hoping to fool Betty and the judges.

Then when her husband Ricky sauntered in after the baseball game, Lucy sent him outside to finish mowing the lawn.  Since it was so dark, though, he couldn’t see well enough to avoid Lucy’s own precious flower bed.

His solution?  Plant wax tulips to replace Lucy’s ruined flowers!

It’s one of my favorite I Love Lucy episodes and the ending is unsurprising.  The problem with wax flowers in the heat of the day is that they melt into a messy puddle of mush.  That’s what the judges found in Betty and Lucy’s gardens, earning them both a disqualification instead of a blue ribbon.

Wax fruit has the same weakness as wax flowers.  It may be deceptively shiny, catching the light and gleaming in an appetizing way.  The apples may be deeply red and the oranges the color of the sun.  They may be shaped to perfection, each grape a perfect juicy-looking sphere.

But in the end, it’s still fake. It can’t hold together in heat and one mouthful would send you spitting and gagging to the nearest glass of water.

Fake flowers for Lucy, fake fruit for us—it’s the appeal of the moment and the sacrificing of what’s genuine for what’s currently convenient.

Paul tells us exactly what real fruit looks like, the kind that grows when we’re abiding in the One True Vine:

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

Everywhere I turn, I learn about this fruit.  I started a new Bible study–on the fruit of the Spirit.  I picked up a book from the church library on this same fruit. It’s in the devotionals I read and the lessons that I hear.

It’s tempting then, since this fruit matters so much, to skip to growth and maturity without the process.  How can I have the fruit without the tending and pruning and remaining in the vine?

Can I discipline myself into patience?  Can I watch my tongue closely enough to constitute gentleness?

Is this fruit that I can fake with my own personal strength and resources or because I’m generally a nice person?

In her devotional, Diamonds in the Dust, Joni Eareckson Tada writes:

It’s impossible to manufacture the fruit of the Spirit …you can paint a veneer of joy and put up a facade of self-control, but invariably you will be found out.  You can only deceive yourself and others for so long with false love and plastic peace (p. 257).

Yes, eventually the heat of life melts the fake fruit you’ve tried to attach to the Vine with super-glue and wire.

The problem, as the devotional notes, is that when we try to fake our own life fruit, we do it by skipping to the end result.  God, however, “grows genuine fruit in the opposite order” (Joni Eareckson Tada 257).  His emphasis is on planting His Word in us and growing our relationship with Him.

This fruit of the Spirit must be supernatural makeup in order to be genuine.  No amount of “nice girl” qualities can fake the love, kindness, goodness and gentleness of God’s Spirit within us.

And we might try to mosey along on our own good manners and general likeability for a while, passing off our own character traits as holy fruit.  But we’ll ultimately melt into a puddle of wax mush.

Scripture tells us, “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me” (John 15:4).  So, don’t pursue blue-ribbon fruit; focus on abiding in Him.

It’s not patience we seek, it’s Jesus.  It’s not faithfulness we ask for; it’s the Holy Spirit alive and real in our lives.  As we feed on the Vine and refuse to disconnect regardless of life, busyness, circumstances and other temptations, God will grow the fruit in us, genuine Spirit fruit, lasting and beautiful, a testimony not to us, but to the Vine itself.

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.  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

Devotions from My Garden: What Are You Waiting for?

So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit (Galatians 6:9 MSG).

We planted in pots and crates on our deck, tiny seedlings of cucumbers, tomatoes in three varieties and jalapeno peppers.

Then we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

We watered.  We tended.

But mostly we waited.

From one day to the next, the leaves didn’t appear to expand and the stems didn’t seem to reach any higher than the day before or the day before that.

It took standing back and surveying growth over time for us to notice we had plants and not seedlings any longer.  Then there were the first tiny yellow flowers on the cucumber plant.

The day we spotted the tiniest baby tomato, I called all three of my daughters over to see.  There we stood, a mom and three girls gently pushing aside green leaves to marvel at the promise of growth.

And then we waited some more.

And waited.

And waited.

For signs of ripeness and readiness for harvest.

Gardening, like life, is so often about waiting.  The difference, though, is that we waited for our first vegetables with anticipation and excitement.  We tracked the progress and closely watched the physical signs of a promising future because we knew the day would come when we sat down to salad and salsa from our garden.

But in life we often wait with a hopeless aggravation and a frustrating impatience.

We wait on God, tapping our foot and glancing often at our wrists with urgency.

Perhaps, though, we should wait for God, watching the signs of growth, rejoicing over every bud and clapping our hands with joy every time we see a reminder that the harvest is coming.

This is how the crowds prepared for Jesus’ arrival:

“Now when Jesus returned, the crowds welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him” (Luke 8:40). 

Can you imagine the crowd watching the road for the first glimpse of Jesus’ sandal?  Perhaps kids ran back and forth bringing news of Jesus’ journey.  “He’s coming.  He’s near.  He’s closer.  He’s just around the corner.”

He’s here!

Imagine the hush of the people.  They weren’t whining about the wait or postulating that perhaps Jesus wasn’t coming after all.

No, they were likely listening intently for the first sound of His voice chatting with His followers as He traveled on the road.

This is how we wait for God–we look forward with excited anticipation and uncontainable joy for the moment we see God at work.

And while we wait, we prepare to receive all that He’s bringing our way.

Like the kings who faced the overwhelming enemy might of Moab, we wait for God’s promise.  He said He would “fill the ditches in the dry streambed with water” overnight and without wind or rain.  Yes, He would bring the refreshment and victory they needed (2 Kings 3:16-18).

In the very next chapter, Elisha tells the destitute widow to gather “empty vessels and not too few” and then the Lord filled as many as she gathered with rich oil, saving her from starvation and poverty (2 Kings 4:3).

In two back-to-back passages, God miraculously fills His people up to the brim, giving them all they had prepared to receive.

I feel this now, this urge to prepare, to grab as many jugs and cups and bowls and pots and buckets as I can so I don’t miss out on one drop of God’s provision. 

I stand at the foot of the dry streambed and rather than complaining about my parched throat, I want to dress in my swimsuit, ready to dive into the pools overflowing with His miraculous water-without-rain.

It’s waiting, surely.  I’m not there yet.  But I see the signs.  I see the growth, the buds, the tiniest hint of vegetables to come.  I see God-movement here and there, projecting change and something new.

Part of me is scared.  Waiting is what I know.  Change, even good change, frightens me and stresses me out.

So what’s a girl to do?

See the signs of God on the move, the promises of harvest, and yet refuse to budge?  “No thanks, God, I’ll stick with what I have and what I know because at least I’ve dug into a trench of trusty comfort and reliability.”

Or do I hang my shoulders in defeat and stomp away, not seeing the harvest quickly enough?  Tired of waiting, I dump over the vessels waiting for oil, I walk away from the streambed thirsty for water . . . I turn away from those waiting for the first sight of Jesus and choose instead to complain at home that He didn’t come.

Or I could wait, joyfully and with excitement, nervous perhaps but ready nonetheless.  Jumping up and down trying to see Jesus over the heads of the crowd, I’m waiting for God, not waiting on Him.

This is how we reap the harvest, when “we don’t give up, or quit” (Galatians 6:9).  This is how we don’t miss out on one drop of what God has planned.

More Devotions From My Garden:


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 © 2012 Heather King