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

I’ll Wait For the 7:30

Today, I am tired.

And it shows.  Words seem tricky and hard to maneuver, elusive and even a little mocking as they play hide and seek in my mind.  This morning with my kids, I would snap my fingers and squint my eyes trying to think—“What’s that word . .  what’s that word again . . oh, yeah, shoes.  Yes, put your shoes on.”

The trouble started just a few weeks ago when my toddler appeared by my bedside at 6:00 a.m. and announced it was morning and time to get up for the day.

Now, many of you are routinely early risers and prefer waking in the darkness and sipping hot coffee leisurely over your devotions before heading out for your morning commute.

At our house, however, morning begins at 7:00 a.m. So, when my early riser appeared another morning at 5:45, I mumbled, “It’s still night time.”

“No, it’s morning,” she answered and pointed out the window to the few glimmers of sunlight visible through the blinds.

Unwilling to give in, I explained, “You really need more sleep.”

With a simple, “I’m awake,” she bounced out of my room ready for cheerful activity while I shuffled behind her like a zombie.

What my toddler doesn’t understand is that waking me too early in the day ultimately short-changes her.  I’m a happier, more cheerful, more productive, more energetic, more playful mommy when we all agree to sleep until 7 a.m.

Impatience typically has a way of short-changing all of us.  We miss out on God’s best because we’re not willing to wait for it, settling instead for whatever barely acceptable option presents itself.

Or, while we wait we make it clear that we hate this.  We hate the unknown of it all, the required patience, the uncertainty, the lack of control, and the destruction of our own agenda.  We whine.  We nag.  We grumble and complain.  We envy others who already have that ministry, that relationship, that job, that child, that clear direction, that future.

It’s as if we pop up to the throne at 5:45 and announce, “It’s time!  I’m awake. Let’s get going.”  God’s plan, however, is to present us with His 7:30 best.

In 1 Samuel 8, the people of Israel wanted something from God. Following the leadership of Moses and Joshua, a series of judges had led the nation and delivered them from the perpetual persecution of the Philistines and other surrounding enemies.

This era of judges ended with Samuel the prophet, who led the people to rededicate themselves to God.  When he tried to pass the baton of authority to his sons, however, the people quickly complained:  “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:5 ESV).

The people didn’t trust God’s ability to choose their rulers and they were no longer willing to wait for Gideons and Samsons and Deborahs to deliver them, to direct them spiritually, to lead them into battle or to arbitrate their disagreements.

They wanted what other nations had—-assured succession and an inherited throne.  Not only that, they wanted it at 5:45 and they weren’t willing to wait until 7:30.

In her book, A Heart Like His, Beth Moore writes:

“God had already planned a king for the people.  Their lack of patience was to cost them dearly.  If they had waited for the Lord’s choice instead of demanding their way, how different might the story have been?” (pp. 32-33).

God’s design for a Messianic line and for an eternal kingship to emerge from the tribe of Judah and through the house of David required the king of God’s choosing at the time of God’s choosing.

Instead, the people wanted a king and they wanted one NOW. So they settled for Saul.

Then, years later, unwilling to wait for Samuel to offer a promised sacrifice on the eve of battle—full of as much impatience as the nation that had demanded a king in the first place--Saul did the unthinkable.  He, a king and not an anointed priest, sacrificed to God.  That cost him his reign.

Thus, Samuel traveled to a man named Jesse’s house and anointed a ruddy and handsome young shepherd to be God’s chosen king.  Indeed:

He chose David his servant
and took him from the sheepfolds;
from following the nursing ewes he brought him
    to shepherd Jacob his people,
Israel his inheritance.
With upright heart he shepherded them
and guided them with his skillful hand (Psalm 78:70-72).

God wanted a shepherd to shepherd His people, just as He later chose fishermen to become fishers of men. 

That was God’s best.

God’s best was a man who would write:

For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation (Psalm 62:1, ESV).

The Message version says:

God, the one and only— I’ll wait as long as he says.
Everything I need comes from him,
so why not?
He’s solid rock under my feet,
breathing room for my soul (Psalm 62:1-2, MSG).

Unlike the impatient nation of Israel demanding a king like other nations had …
Unlike Saul impatiently giving up on the tardy Samuel and offering a sacrifice on his own …

David waited for God, waited in silence, waited as long as God saidIf we want God’s very best for us, we must do the same.

You can read more devotionals on this topic here:

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



Weekend Walk, 04/14/2012

Hiding the Word:

This morning when I awoke, I didn’t know what verse to choose to meditate on this week or what inspirational and insightful message to share with you all.

I was a blank.

I was blank as I served up breakfast for my children, blank as I washed up the kitchen and switched over laundry, blank as I showered, blank as I drove to and shopped at my church yard sale.

Then, on my second sweep around the gym full of recycled treasures, I discovered a tiny, Christmas-colored box almost hidden on the table amidst china and craft supplies.

This was treasure indeed, Scriptures in a cardboard box to last me a whole year and to remind me to pray for the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes that we package up and send out to children around the globe each Christmas season.

On the very first card in my box, Franklin Graham has a message that reads:

“As you commit verses to memory your heart becomes like a treasure chest filled with verses that can bring you comfort, strength, inspiration, courage, and refreshment.”

Amen to that, Franklin Graham!

So, in the Spirit of Operation Christmas Child and the Samaritan’s Purse organization, here’s our verse for the week:

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
1 John 3:18, NIV

Weekend Walk:

In His Time
Originally posted 04/15/2011

Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom”
Psalm 90:12

The day has finally arrived!  I’ve iced cupcakes, wrapped presents, and filled goody bags for my daughter’s fifth birthday party.

She has been asking me when this day would come every single morning for 9 months.  I’d show her on the calendar how far she had to go and she would sigh and whine with frustration.  Her birthday simply would never come.  She would never ever be five years old.  Everyone would always be older than her. Surely she would stay four years old indefinitely.

I’ve held her as she sobbed out tears of disappointment only one week ago because her birthday was just too far away.  Seven days was an impossibly long time to wait.

I, on the other hand, feel as if this day has come so quickly.  How is it possible that my gorgeous, brilliant, quirky little one has been with me for five years?  For these past few months, I’ve been telling her to wait, just wait, it will come and it will arrive sooner than she realizes, but those words felt empty and meaningless to her.

Impatience weighs heavy in this house.  My older girl has been telling every stranger in town, “Hi, my name is Victoria.  I’m almost seven.”  Sometimes, she even pads her age a bit and tells them she’s almost ten or almost 12.  And so I lean down and whisper to her that her birthday just happened; she’s still eight months away from even one more birthday, much less four or six!

“Mommy, I want to be in kindergarten.  Mommy, I want to be in first grade.  Mommy, I want to wear point shoes in ballet.  Mommy, I want to be a teenager.  Mommy, I want to be old enough for a house of my own so I can have a dog.” Even my baby toddles around after older sisters trying to do the same “big girl” things they do.

No matter how old they are, they always want to be older.  I try to tell them truth—that one day they will pay bills, and go to work, and care for sick children, and will long for the preschool days when they worried only about show and tell and their snack choice for the day.

Please enjoy this moment right now, I beg.  Please don’t let it pass by you unnoticed and unvalued because you are too busy looking ahead to the next step.

And I have been there.  I have trekked across a college campus and longed for graduation.  Married and been asked by family when we’d have a baby.  Had a baby and contemplated what it would be like to have older kids, and sleep, and no diapers, and no need for babysitters. Worked a job and longed for retirement.   Always too busy thinking about later to actually enjoy now.

Solomon told us “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heaven . . . He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11, NIV).  No amount of rushing or anticipating or worrying will change God’s appointed seasons in our lives.

I love to visit Colonial Williamsburg and walk the gardens surrounding the palace and I long to stroll through the local botanical gardens and enjoy the color and scents and hovering butterflies in a place of beauty.  But, if I travel there before they are ready, before the flowers have bloomed and while the bulbs still lie dormant beneath cold earth, I would see death, not life, brown dirt instead of the brilliant hues of tulips and daffodils.  “He has made everything beautiful in its time,” and so we must cultivate, plant, and tend as God calls us to so that we can enjoy life in its proper season.

Of course, sometimes we feel as if the season we are in has lasted forever and that surely God will never release us to newness and fulfillment.  We remain dissatisfied with the now He has given us as we dream about the future we imagine.

And what happens, then, if the next season bears no resemblance to the goals and dreams in our heart?  I know a couple who planned retirement with excitement and anticipation, but the reality wasn’t travel, relaxation and golf.  No, it was stroke and poor health and a future not at all what they had envisioned.  They can’t go back and enjoy the time before caregiving and doctor’s appointments.  It is now a season past.

In Psalm 90, Moses challenges us to keep the proper perspective about our life’s circumstances.  He says, “A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night . . . Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures . . . Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:4, 10, 12, NIV).

We all feel stuck sometimes and without hope that we’ll ever overcome our difficulties.  My mom’s greatest advice was to remember that “this is only a season and won’t last forever.”

There were struggles and stresses that consumed my thoughts in the day and kept me awake at night, now long since resolved and in the past.  Sleepless nights with a newborn, a teething infant, terrible twos, potty training, juggling college and work, unemployment—all seasons that seemed interminable when I was in them, but now appear so brief as I scan back over my life history.  Even our entire lives, the seventy or eighty years Moses thinks we have on this planet, constitute so little of the human history God has witnessed and walked through.

So then, we ask that God “teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  It is wisdom indeed to realize that the circumstances we are in are a passing season and hope can carry us through to victory. A new season will arrive at just the right moment and it will be beautiful in its proper time.

But, it is also wisdom to number our days, making each one count.  Not letting a single calendar square go by without us valuing it for what it is–this is our life in the here and now and God is present in it. What would it look like if we lingered here in this place, finding the beauty God has created in this time rather than straining to see what lies ahead?  It would be a life of glorious contentment and peace, restful and unrushed as we take the time to look, really look, at the beauty all around us in the reality of our now.

Even in the difficult times, we learn to see the beauty in dirt turned over, weeds pulled, seeds planted—the work God is doing in our lives this moment, the beauty of Him active in our lives, cultivating our hearts in this season, knowing that in His own perfect timing He will bring forth growth, shoots of life, and a harvest plentiful.  So much beauty all in His time.

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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.

One Minute Devotional – Devotions From My Garden: Growing

“He has made everything beautiful in its time”
(Ecclesiastes 3:11a ESV)

I’m a gardener who loves color, soil, blooms, and fullness, all without spending much money.  So, I’m an anti-annual gardener mostly, although I break down and buy some Gerbera daisies every year.  I can’t help myself!!

My modus operandi is usually to buy small, inexpensive perennials or bulbs that barely show up in my garden the first year.  Two years later, though, my $3 plant has now spread across the ground, covering every available space.  The coneflower I first planted several years ago grew over my head last summer.  The Black-Eyed Susans with the original circumference of my hand now span about 3 feet.

But it takes time.

Unfortunately, time is the one thing we don’t often give life—give God.  We want Him to renew us, restore us, change us, perfect us, and use us immediately, when we’re still tiny little plants who haven’t grown into maturity.

In her lessons in James: Mercy Triumphs, Beth Moore said, “We demand a holy SPRINT; He gives us the Holy Spirit.”

When the Israelites finally stepped foot into the promised land after 40 years of wandering, God told them from the beginning that conquering would take time.  He said, “The Lord your God will clear away these nations before you little by little. You may not make an end of them at once, lest the wild beasts grow too numerous for you” (Deuteronomy 7:22).

If they had rushed God, they would have been destroyed and overrun.

In the same way, James writes:

Be patient, therefore, brothers,until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.  You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful (James 5:7-11).

Don’t rush the journey.  Don’t run ahead of God.  Be patient.  Establish your heart.  Remain steadfast.  We don’t always see the reason for the slow pace or the delays, but God is working for our protection and benefit because He is a “compassionate and merciful” Master Gardener.

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

Christmas Devotions: Easy Bake Faith

Last year during the week before her birthday, 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 answer, which was exactly the same for everyone who asked.

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.  Any time the television was on, advertisements sang the praises of the Easy Bake Oven and she plead with me for the one gift that would please her little heart.

I couldn’t bring myself to buy the Easy Bake for her, but a sweet friend did. 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.  Yet, all I have to do is provide some safety supervision and guide the creating process.  She pours in her teaspoonful of water.  She eases the cookie tray into the oven.  She pushes it out the other side when the timer goes off.  Fortunately, she also eats the cookie 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.  The longest amount of time is simply spent warming up the light bulb.  Mix in a little water, plop the batter on the tray, push the tray into the oven.  It’s 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.  Even more amazing to me, is that “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).

Most of us would be honored by a special, intimate relationship with the Lord, but we might balk at surrendering all of our independence in order to receive the fulfillment of His promises to us.

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 and praised him and prophesied over him. 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.

How is God urging you to be both dependent and patient in your faith for the new year?

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

Christmas devotions: The Christmas Countdown

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).

“Mom, how many days until Victoria’s birthday?”
Nine.

“How many days until we go see The Nutcracker?”
Five.

“Once we see The Nutcracker, how many more days will it be until Victoria’s birthday and then to Christmas?”
Four and Eight.

“How many days until my party at school?”
Three for Lauren, four for Victoria.

“How many days until our program?”
Four.

“How many days to Christmas?  Do you know how many hours that might be?”
Thirteen and go ask your dad.

Right now, my kids are living for the countdowns.  We’ve carefully examined the calendar, marking every upcoming event and charting out the wait-time from now until then.  The Advent calendar slowly moves us ever-closer to the big day when we peek under square number 25.

Still, every day they ask me to perform mental calculations rapidly and with precision.

Then they moan and groan as if five days of waiting is interminable and two weeks of patience too much to bear.

Inspired by all the anticipation, my oldest daughter asks, “How long until I’ll be thirteen?”

Now I’m the one moaning and groaning.

In some ways, I share all their excitement.  I can’t wait to see them open the special gifts I’ve chosen for them or enjoy special family time and build on the traditions they’re only just becoming old enough to appreciate.

Still, it’s made me realize how I struggle with the Christian walk because there so often aren’t any countdowns at all, not that I know of anyway.

How many days until You reveal Your will, Lord?

How many days until I know what this experience is for?

How long until You deliver me from this circumstance?

How much time must I wait for You to answer this prayer?

So much of my life seems to hang right now on uncertain hooks with undefined strength.  Perhaps you feel this way also–like you’re just dangling there, waiting for the “Go” sign, the signal, the map, or the plan.  And until then, you wait with anxious anticipation, always on guard, always watchful so that you don’t miss the moment when God says, “Now.”

The trouble is, we have no date on the calendar to circle in red as the day God will speak or the moment our time of waiting will end.  No certain time of revelation or definitive arrival date for answered prayers.

So, we keep up our focused vigil and continue doing what God has told us to do right now, trusting that He’ll reveal the next step to us clearly and in His perfect time.

That’s what the Israelites did for 400 years between the end of the Old Testament and the moment that John the Baptist first stepped out of the wilderness and began crying out for people to repent.

They waited.

They looked for the Messiah.

They prayed and searched His Word and obeyed (hopefully) what He had told them to do before.

In the Gospel of Mark, the very first words we have recorded from Jesus are “The time has come.” (Mark 1:15).

How appropriate.

Maybe the people of God weren’t able to countdown the days to the Messiah’s ministry on earth, but God could.  He knew the right moment all along and He didn’t rush His plan or sleep through the alarm.

When the time had come, Jesus was there.

Paul wrote in Galatians thatwhen 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).

And later in Titus:  God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior (Titus 1:2-3).

The writer of Hebrews tells us: But [that appointed time came] when Christ (the Messiah) appeared as a High Priest of the better things that have come and are to come (Hebrews 9:11 AMP).

The time between the promise and the fulfillment must have seemed impossible and unending.  Just as there were many who still fervently sought out the Messiah, still others probably had given up.  After hundreds of years without revelation from God, who could blame them?

And yet, at the appointed time, Jesus was born.

This was the promise for the prophets during all of those centuries of waiting:

 “For the vision is yet for the appointed time;
It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
For it will certainly come, it will not delay (Habakkuk 2:3, NASB).

Notice that Habakkkuk says, “it will not delay.”

We might disagree.  For those tapping their foot in the waiting room, it certainly seemed like a delay.

Yet, not from God’s perspective.  He knew all along when the appointed time would come, and He wasn’t a moment too soon or a second too late.

He never is.  We can take heart that God knows exactly where we are in the countdown even when we don’t and we can rejoice with the Psalmist that “my times are in Your hands” (Psalm 31:15a).

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

Copyright © 2011 Heather King


Lessons from the Theater, Part Two

This week, I’m sharing devotional thoughts based on my time working on a community theater production of Hello, Dolly! 

You can read Lessons from the Theater: Part One here.

Lesson Two: Trust the Director

It was a large rectangular piece of butcher paper on the floor of a studio.

The director said it was a door.

As the actors rehearsed their scene, they went around the door, behind the door, in front of the door—anywhere and everywhere except walking “through” it.

“Use the door!!,” the director exclaimed.

But the door was a piece of paper until just weeks before the performance when the cast was suddenly rehearsing on the actual stage and the piece of paper was replaced by  . . . a wooden door that opened and closed.

So it was during weeks of rehearsals.  The director said, “There will be a table.  You can put it down there.  That’s where the cash register will be so walk over there.”

For months, the cast performed actions, moved across the stage, and used invisible props all because the director told them, “This is where it’s going to be.  This is what’s going to happen.”

And they had to trust her.

So it is with us.  Our Director tells us to step here, walk there, and do this, and in so many cases, we don’t see the purpose or the ultimate design.  We have to trust Him anyway.

Not only that, but when we’re living out obedient lives, sometimes we don’t see God’s activity at all, at least not right away and maybe not even after a long, frustrating season of waiting.

During those weeks of rehearsing with no props, no set, and no costumes, the actors could have assumed it would last forever and that they’d walk on an empty stage on opening night in their street clothes.

Yet, behind the scenes, there was a bustle of activity.  A costume designer and her team measuring, shopping, and sewing.  A prop master searching for the perfect hat box and a mannequin.  A set designer and master set builder with a crew of helping hands to construct, paint, and dress two stores, a New York street and a fancy restaurant.

Behind the scenes, our God is at work on our behalf even when we can’t see the evidence.  Then, at just the right moment, He provides for our need and unveils the completed design He’s been working on all along.

Oswald Chambers wrote:

On looking back we see the presence of an amazing design.  If we are born of God we will see His guiding hand and give Him the credit . . .  Be ready to discover His divine designs anywhere and everywhere.”

It’s in retrospect that we see God’s glory in our circumstances.  Just like Moses, we see God’s glory as He passes by.

Moses entered the most holy place of God’s presence on that sacred mountain and with inexplicable boldness, he asked God to “show me your glorious presence” (Exodus 34:18).

Mortal and plagued with sin as we are, we can’t see God’s face.  We can’t take in the fullness of His glory without falling dead at His feet.

Yet, God told Moses, “As my glorious presence passes by, I will hide you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand and let you see me from behind.  But my face will not be seen” (Exodus 34:22-23).

What if we’re staring at our surroundings, straining to see God and we see nothing?  No sign of His presence.  No hint of His favor or blessing.  No indication of his design.

Perhaps He has hidden you in the crevice of a rock and covered your face with His hand.

Then when He has moved in all His glory, we will look again and see where God has been.  We will see what He has done by the trail of His presence.

So, what do we do in the meantime when His glory is invisible to us and we remain blind to His activity?

We are to “imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised” (Hebrews 6:12).

It takes faith to trust that if the Director says to move here, we go, even if we don’t understand the reason.  It takes patience to wait for further instruction and for the revelation of His glory.

Months ago I wrote about Naaman, the powerful army commander for King Aram, who had leprosy and expected Elijah to heal him.  When Elijah sent a messenger with the instructions to bathe in the Jordan River seven times, Naaman was furious.

Yet, after blustering about the foolishness of it all and complaining about how ridiculous it was, Naaman obeyed.

After my post, a friend reminded me of an important lesson—Naaman had to obey without giving up.  He had to dip down in that river again and again, never seeing the healing until the seventh time he ducked his head down in obedience.

At any moment, he could have said, “this clearly isn’t working,” and walked away with the leprosy still ravaging his body.

But because he obeyed completely and awaited the appointed time, God showed up in His glory and healed him.

Like the actors rehearsing without props and without a set, we move where God says to move.  We do what He tells us to do.  We trust our Director’s vision and instruction, and we do it with faith and patience, obeying without giving up, just as Naaman did.  We might not see the point of it all, and yet we obey with anticipation, knowing that we will see God’s glory as He passes by.

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.

Our Jesus Style

“Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh” (Romans 13:14, NIV).

The first time it happened, I thought I was going crazy.

I rifled through my two-year-old’s dresser and pulled out a new bright red Minnie Mouse t-shirt and some jeans.  Then I placed them in the pile with the other girls’ clothes for the day.

My toddler took one look at the red shirt on top, screamed “no,” grabbed it and went running through the house like she was heading for a touchdown.

I have three daughters.  I’ve faced wardrobe protests before.  There’s the “I only wear dresses, the frillier and sparklier the better” and the “I only wear pink and purple” child.

In the other extreme, we have regular Sunday morning meltdowns with my other daughter who “hates pretty” and refuses to put on a dress.  Oh how I mourn the closet full of hand-me-down dresses just hanging there unused!

So, seeing my two-year-old streak through the house with a red shirt didn’t phase me in the least.  I dressed my other kids and then hunted for my naked toddler.

But when I found her, the shirt was missing.  I looked around her, in the rooms she had been in, back in the dresser, and under the kitchen table (her usual hiding place).

Did I not just see her running with this shirt?  Did it disappear into thin air?  Had I finally completely lost my Mom mind?

Undaunted, I grabbed another shirt, pulled it on over her head and finished the morning dressing ritual and started washing dishes.  I took some crust from their breakfast toast over to the trashcan and dumped it in almost without looking.  Then I walked back to the trash with my used teabag and napkin and tossed those in, as well.

Walking away, though, I realized—I had seen red crumpled clothing in there.  The Minnie shirt was now covered in crumbs and splotches of tea, but I salvaged it and threw it into the washing machine.

Now I’m on to her.  I carry out the clothes in the morning.  The two-year-old’s disappear routinely.  I no longer hunt through the house for them.  I know they’re in the trash can.

My little one has developed a strong opinion about what she wears every day.

I wonder what would happen if we were as careful about the attitudes, beliefs, and heart conditions we clothe ourselves in every morning.  Maybe we should be that picky.

It’s a favorite metaphor of the apostles, reminding us to peel off the old clothes of flesh, lust and sin and to purposefully put on a brand new outfit everyday.  We are to clothe ourselves in Christ.

Paul described it this way:

But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices  and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator . . .

 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity (Colossians 3:8-14, NIV).

In other words, take it off, take it all off.  The anger, the bad attitude and grumpiness, the bad language, the lies.  All of those pesky remnants of our pre-Salvation self have to go.

And we stare at the closet and choose the new clothes we’ll wear each day with great care.  Clothes of compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and most of all love.

Add in to that mix the favorite outfit of Peter: “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another” (1 Peter 5:5)

The bottom line, for Paul is that we should “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh” (Romans 13:14, NIV).

Unfortunately, our old fleshly selves have a way of sneaking their way back into our closets.  We think we’ve restyled only to snap in anger during the morning rush.  How did that discarded sin find it’s way into our wardrobe again?  More importantly, how did we end up wearing it today?

Mostly, it happens accidentally.  We aren’t picky enough about the spiritual clothes we don every day.

If you’re like me, you spend the last few minutes of time in bed each morning thinking about what you’re going to wear and all the things you need to accomplish that day.  You’re planning it all out.

So, in those few moments before your feet hit the floor, plan the style of your heart.  Choose to wear Jesus each day.  Reject the clothing of your old self and instead pull on love and step into compassion.  Spice things up with a scarf of kindness and a jacket of forgiveness.  Wear your own favorite shoes of humility and gentleness.

It’s our Jesus style.  It’s what people should see when they glance our way—our Savior.  His pattern in our lives is unmistakable.

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

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

In His Time

Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom”
Psalm 90:12

The day has finally arrived!  I’ve iced cupcakes, wrapped presents, and filled goody bags for my daughter’s fifth birthday party.  She has been asking me when this day would come every single morning for 9 months.  I’d show her on the calendar how far she had to go and she would sigh and whine with frustration.  Her birthday simply would never come.  She would never ever be five years old.  Everyone would always be older than her. Surely she would stay four years old indefinitely.  I’ve held her as she sobbed out tears of disappointment only one week ago because her birthday was just too far away.  Seven days was an impossibly long time to wait.

I, on the other hand, feel as if this day has come so quickly.  How is it possible that my gorgeous, brilliant, quirky little one has been with me for five years?  For these past few months, I’ve been telling her to wait, just wait, it will come and it will arrive sooner than she realizes, but those words felt empty and meaningless to her.

Impatience weighs heavy in this house.  My older girl has been telling every stranger in town, “Hi, my name is Victoria.  I’m almost seven.”  Sometimes, she even pads her age a bit and tells them she’s almost ten or almost 12.  And so I lean down and whisper to her that her birthday just happened; she’s still eight months away from even one more birthday, much less four or six!

“Mommy, I want to be in kindergarten.  Mommy, I want to be in first grade.  Mommy, I want to wear point shoes in ballet.  Mommy, I want to be a teenager.  Mommy, I want to be old enough for a house of my own so I can have a dog.” Even my baby toddles around after older sisters trying to do the same “big girl” things they do.

No matter how old they are, they always want to be older.  I try to tell them truth—that one day they will pay bills, and go to work, and care for sick children, and will long for the preschool days when they worried only about show and tell and their snack choice for the day.  Please enjoy this moment right now, I beg.  Please don’t let it pass by you unnoticed and unvalued because you are too busy looking ahead to the next step.

And I have been there.  I have trekked across a college campus and longed for graduation.  Married and been asked by family when we’d have a baby.  Had a baby and contemplated what it would be like to have older kids, and sleep, and no diapers, and no need for babysitters. Worked a job and longed for retirement.   Always too busy thinking about later to actually enjoy now.

Solomon told us “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heaven . . . He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11, NIV).  No amount of rushing or anticipating or worrying will change God’s appointed seasons in our lives.

I love to visit Colonial Williamsburg and walk the gardens surrounding the palace and I long to stroll through the local botanical gardens and enjoy the color and scents and hovering butterflies in a place of beauty.  But, if I travel there before they are ready, before the flowers have bloomed and while the bulbs still lie dormant beneath cold earth, I would see death, not life, brown dirt instead of the brilliant hues of tulips and daffodils.  “He has made everything beautiful in its time,” and so we must cultivate, plant, and tend as God calls us to so that we can enjoy life in its proper season.

Of course, sometimes we feel as if the season we are in has lasted forever and that surely God will never release us to newness and fulfillment.  We remain dissatisfied with the now He has given us as we dream about the future we imagine. And what happens, then, if the next season bears no resemblance to the goals and dreams in our heart?  I know a couple who planned retirement with excitement and anticipation, but the reality wasn’t travel, relaxation and golf.  No, it was stroke and poor health and a future not at all what they had envisioned.  They can’t go back and enjoy the time before caregiving and doctor’s appointments.  It is now a season past.

In Psalm 90, Moses challenges us to keep the proper perspective about our life’s circumstances.  He says, “A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night . . . Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures . . . Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:4, 10, 12, NIV).

We all feel stuck sometimes and without hope that we’ll ever overcome our difficulties.  My mom’s greatest advice was to remember that “this is only a season and won’t last forever.”  There were struggles and stresses that consumed my thoughts in the day and kept me awake at night, now long since resolved and in the past.  Sleepless nights with a newborn, a teething infant, terrible twos, potty training, juggling college and work, unemployment—all seasons that seemed interminable when I was in them, but now appear so brief as I scan back over my life history.  Even our entire lives, the seventy or eighty years Moses thinks we have on this planet, constitute so little of the human history God has witnessed and walked through.

So then, we ask that God “teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  It is wisdom indeed to realize that the circumstances we are in are a passing season and hope can carry us through to victory. A new season will arrive at just the right moment and it will be beautiful in its proper time.

But, it is also wisdom to number our days, making each one count.  Not letting a single calendar square go by without us valuing it for what it is–this is our life in the here and now and God is present in it. What would it look like if we lingered here in this place, finding the beauty God has created in this time rather than straining to see what lies ahead?  It would be a life of glorious contentment and peace, restful and unrushed as we take the time to look, really look, at the beauty all around us in the reality of our now. Even in the difficult times, we learn to see the beauty in dirt turned over, weeds pulled, seeds planted—the work God is doing in our lives this moment, the beauty of Him active in our lives, cultivating our hearts in this season, knowing that in His own perfect timing He will bring forth growth, shoots of life, and a harvest plentiful.  So much beauty all in His time.

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

Copyright © 2011 Heather King