The Place You Don’t Want to Be

deuteronomy 31-8

One little dog was shaking, just trembling all over while her owner held her tight.

Another larger dog tugged and tugged on his leash back towards the exit. When the veterinary assistant came to walk the fella to the back, he shuffled backwards trying to escape.

Our own cat was settled in his carrier where he had tucked himself into a ball in the farthest back corner.

Every time I glanced inside the cat carrier, he darted his eyes around nervously and then mewed at me.

I think he was saying, “I don’t want to be here.”

Welcome to the crowd, buddy.  Nobody wanted to be there that day.

Of course, our vet’s office staff is wonderfully friendly and everyone there is gentle and considerate.  They patiently waited with animals and carried little trembling puppies back cooing at them all the way, “It’s all right, little guy.  This will be over in no time.”

And, of course, the vet is where these animals all needed to be that day.  It was for their own good and their own benefit.

Still, none of them came bounding into the waiting room all excited to hang out with the doctor.

The staff called my cat’s name and I toted him into the clinic and set him on the exam table.   The vet checked him all over and the whole time, my cat kept trying to climb back into the safety of the carrier.  He was persistent.  I’ve never seen him want to get in there before, but right at that moment, it’s the one place he wanted to be.

He wanted to feel safe.  He wanted the known.

I felt like saying, “I hear ya, buddy.”

Maybe we all know exactly what it’s like to be where we don’t want to be.

We can philosophize and speak truth to ourselves, knowing that God only sends us where He goes with us.

And He only takes us places that are for our own good.

That’s true, of course, but it’s nonetheless bewildering to end up where you don’t want to be and never intended to go.

When the apostle Paul boarded a ship headed for Rome in Acts 27, he knew the sailing would be difficult.

The timing was bad.  The crew had delayed too long.  The winds were against them.  The port was unfavorable for a winter stay, but continuing on their journey could be disastrous.

Paul tried to tell them not to sail ahead, but they didn’t listen to him.

So, where’d the ship end up?

Not in Rome. Not right away at least.

Instead, just as Paul predicted, they ended up shipwrecked on the island of Malta with the total loss of their vessel and cargo.

This wasn’t Paul’s destination or plan. He knew God wanted him in Rome.  He planned to head to Rome.

But here he was in Malta instead.

We’ve likely been to Malta before also.

Not the physical place, of course, but in Find Your Brave, author Holly Wagner describes Malta as the place you didn’t plan on being and that wasn’t on your map or itinerary or agenda.

It’s still being single long after you thought you’d be married or mourning a miscarriage after the joy of a positive pregnancy test.

It’s unexpected unemployment or a failed business or a rejection letter.

It’s a prodigal child or a broken marriage or a job you just hate instead of the one you wanted.

It’s cancer.

It’s that place of waiting, still waiting, always waiting even though you thought the promise would be fulfilled long ago.

For Paul, Malta was the place where people ended up because they didn’t listen to wise advice and made poor decisions.

Even there, though, when it was their own fault, God was at work, allowing Paul to perform miracles and be a witness to the natives and the ship’s crew.

God redeemed the disaster and restored the journey.

And ultimately, Paul still ended up in Rome, but his time in Malta wasn’t a waste.

That’s the key for me: When I find myself in Malta, I can engage right there.  I don’t need to fret about getting to Rome.  God can take me where He wants me to go in His perfect timing.

For now, I can be fully present in Malta.

Wherever God has brought you, you can be all there.

God is never surprised by our location or unable to use our circumstances.

Even if we don’t know how we got here, God knows.
Even if we don’t want to be here, God can use it.
Even if we don’t know how to get out of here, God does.

And even if we feel abandoned in this place, God is always with us and always at work.

 

 

 

 

What I’m learning as the mom of a dancer

romans 12-6

My own experience with dance consists of one ballet class when I was four, one super cute photo of me in a tutu, and one fiasco of a recital concluding my dance career.

So, as the mom of a dancer I’m always learning things like:

  1. Don’t expect to understand anything the teachers say in class.  I watch a row full of girls in leotards and tights nod in understanding when the teacher says they are to “shu-shu, tendu, plies, releve, dijon, au revoir, RSVP sil vous plait, bon jour, bon appetit (okay, I made most of those up).  All I hear is “French stuff, French stuff, French stuff, more French stuff.”
  2. Splits, despite their appearance, are physically possible (just not for me).  My daughter slides down to the floor and splits her body in half without groans of horror or the sound of her bones breaking.  She didn’t start out that way.  It took years of increasing flexibility and lots of complaints along the way, but now she’s got it.
  3. Dancers come in many shapes and sizes.  Maybe the professional culture of ballet says otherwise, but I love seeing the teachers and students at our dance studio with different body structures.  Beauty and strength, flexibility and discipline can look different on different women.
  4. I’ll never vacuum the floor without first having to pick up hair pins.  Where do they all come from?  How do they all jump out of my daughter’s head onto every surface of our home?  I’ll never know.  But if you ever need a bobby pin, just stop by my house before I vacuum!  (Or gather the bobby pins scattered all over my husband’s car since he picks her up from dance.)
  5. Storing hair accessories takes creativity: When another girl at the studio popped open a travel soap container and started pulling out hair nets, ponytail holders and pins, it was better than a Pinterest discovery. Best.  Idea.  Ever.

But here’s the lesson that’s being etched on my heart this year:

God loves when we give Him our all, even if our “all” is different than the “all” of others.

I’ve taken my daughter to dance classes for years.  I’ve bought her leotards and tights and slipped her hair up into buns.

I’ve written the check each month for her classes.

I’ve worked out insane schedules trying to fit everything on our calendar.

And I’m not a dancer.  I’m not good at it.  I have no training in it.

Even though I can recognize beauty and strength, it’s her passion, not mine.

Still, it’s taken me time to truly value this passion God has given her, to say that it’s beautiful and worthy and worth the sacrifice and effort.

Sporty families often value athleticism over other gifts.

Musical families tend to value musicality.

Artistic families—art.

And so it goes.

My daughter, though, teaches her non-dancing mom to value dance.

I am humbled.

In Galatians 2, Paul defends his own passion to the leaders of the New Testament church.

Until then, everyone thought salvation through Jesus was for the Jews and the Jews alone.

But here was Paul, preaching to the Gentiles and baptizing them, taking the Gospel to those who hadn’t heard.

He was outrageously radical!

Some were probably suspicious of his calling.  They thought it was ‘less than.’  Others wanted to restrict it.

But finally, Paul says:

…when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised …and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised (Galatians 2:7, 9).

We can exhaust ourselves in the church trying to do what everyone else is doing because it seems so valuable.

We can frustrate ourselves by trying to make others care about what we love.  Our pleas can sound like this:  “Every Christian should care about this as much as I do…..”  “If you love Jesus, you’d be involved in this ministry that means so much to me….”

Or, we can give “the right hand of fellowship” to others.

We can perceive and applaud the grace God has given to others just as the church did for Paul.

We seek God’s unique purpose for our own lives and we throw ourselves fully into that work to give Him glory!

And then we rejoice because God is at work in others, as well. We worship God for His goodness and His creativity and we cheer others on for their obedience and faithful sacrifice.

We praise God for the way He makes the body of Christ uniquely unified in its utter diversity.

 

What my reactions say about my faith

proverbs 27

He wasn’t but a few hours old when the questions began.

“Who does he look like?”

We crowded around my newborn son and tried to puzzle out his features.
069

The debate is familiar.  I’ve swaddled three daughters and one son in hospital blankets and visitors have glanced into their faces and declared each time:

Just like dad.

Just like mom.

The opinions differ, this person…that person….there’s no consensus here.

So they ask me and what to say?  I fail at this every time, not seeing all him, all me.  Seeing only “our baby.”

That’s what we decide as a family, not so much that my son looks like dad or mom.  Instead, he looks like a “King baby” and the comparisons are less with his parents and more with his sisters—his sibling counterparts with shared DNA.

I think of my own reflection and how people have told me my whole life that I look exactly like my mom.

But this light brown hair, my blue eyes, my fair skin….those aren’t my mom’s features.  Those belong to my father.

What they see in me isn’t a physical copy of my mom, but a personality, a laugh, a voice that make me her “spitting image.”

So maybe the essence of who we are truly overcomes the external and influences—maybe even determines—the way others see us.

People can look right at me and see past all that is physical to the spirit within.

And so the apostle Paul could see past body frailty to find faith in a man.

In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk (Acts 14:8-10). 

How many people had looked directly at that man and seen only external limitation?  From his birth, he’d been crippled and all through childhood he’d been defined by disability.

Yet, his faith was so great, so overpowering, as to be his greatest noticeable characteristic.  Among a mob of many, his faith made him stand out.

What does such faith look like?  What are its features?

If someone looked at me in a crowd, would they see this faith above all else in me?

He must have had mountain-moving faith, the kind that makes room for miracles and doesn’t crowd them out with doubt rooted in practicalities and self-reliance.

Me?

Could I have faith so bold?

And daily faith, what about that?  Would Paul have seen faith in me amidst the most minor of daily annoyances, the stresses of the schedule, the disappointments of the moment and the way I have to face up to my very own mistakes and failings?

Doesn’t that take faith also?

To choose not to make a forgotten phone call a crisis or a lost library book or the 5 minutes on the clock screaming at me that we’re late or my mistake from rushing too much (yet again).

How we react in the most mundane of stressors reflects our faith (or lack of it).

Do we trust that God has everything under control?

Everything?

Yes, the overwhelming issues we can’t possibly handle, but can we trust Him even with our calendar and our kids’ homework and our grocery bill?

And, if He is so trustworthy, why then fret and fear instead of relax easy into faith in a God so mighty and so merciful?

The Proverbs 31 woman “can laugh at the days to come” (Proverbs 31:25).

She has no fear of tomorrow or any days after that and no worries over what-if’s and hypotheticals.

She has faith.  And it shows up in her demeanor, in her belly of laughter instead of a wrinkled face of worry.

Proverbs also tells me this:

As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person (Proverbs 27:19 NLT).

My reflection should radiate faith, the confident assurance that God is who says He is and He will do what He says He will do.

It’s the firm, unshakeable belief that whatever I face any day in this world is in His hands and never beyond His control or His caring.

Who do I look like, then?

Oh, I hope it’s a woman of deep, unshakeable faith.  I hope people see Jesus in me. I hope people could pick me out of a crowd and know that I was His.

Our Jesus Style

colossians 3-8b

My son screams in the morning when I take off his fire truck pajamas and put on his dinosaur shirt.

Does he want the shirt with the train?  The dump truck and excavator?  The monkey?

No. What he really wants is to stay in his fire truck pajamas all day.

At the end of the day, though, long after I’ve wrestled him into actual clothes, he screams again when I try to take off his dinosaur shirt and put back on the fire truck pajamas.

Now he wants to wear the dinosaur to bed.

Toddler wardrobe wars.

I’ve done this four times with four kids.

I had the daughter who went several years of her life only wearing dresses and skirts and never ever wearing pants.

I had the daughter who only wore pink and purple and didn’t like any other colors, but who also still refuses to wear dresses or skirts.

Then there was my compliant child.  She would say, ‘no’ and take off running when I held up a shirt she didn’t like.

When I found this half-naked toddler in the house, the shirt would be completely missing and she’d appear innocent.

I searched her room, the dresser, every hiding place without result.  No shirt.

Then I went to throw something away and saw it peeking out of the trash can.

She skipped the tantrums and went right for putting clothes she didn’t like in the garbage.

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.

We stare at the closet and choose the new clothes we’ll wear each day with great care, pulling on 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?

We aren’t picky enough about the spiritual clothes we don every day.  When we’re not paying attention and when we’re not being careful, we find we’re  wearing the dirty rags of old habits and familiar sins.

We have to make the conscious choice, the prayerful choice, the one where we ask Christ to robe us in His righteousness.

We can choose to wear Jesus each day.

Reject the clothing of the 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 our own favorite shoes of humility and gentleness.

It’s our Jesus style, it’s Christ shining through us, making HIs presence in our lives unmistakable.

Originally posted November 8, 2011

What her message to me said and why I needed to hear it

1 john 3

I surveyed the possible outfits and an empty suitcase.

I hovered a hand over the teal scarf, pulled it away and then reached for my favorite top and jacket…pulled my hand away again and flopped back onto my bed in defeat.

I was heading to my first writer’s conference where there’d be thousands of women, most of whom I was sure would be perfectly coiffed and fashionably dressed in matching high heels and handbags.

They’d probably have cute haircuts with tons of highlights.

They’d have dangly earrings and other bling.

They’d wear lipstick.  Lipstick!!!  And probably even eyeshadow.

I was in way over my head and I had outfit-picking paralysis.

It was a crisis moment for me.  Yes, a crisis over scarves and skirts.  Suddenly I wasn’t worrying about fashion.

I was stressing over not belonging.  I was worrying about the expense and the time and whether it was worth it. What if I was just fooling myself about this whole writing thing and this was a complete waste?!

I feared failure and laid out the question again and again to God, “What is it you want me to do?”

And then….the follow-up questions, “Does it have to be this hard?  Can’t we take the easy way?  The one where I get to stay home in jeans and sneakers?”

I opened up Facebook to avoid making decisions about what to pack in that suitcase.

That’s when I opened up the message.

A writer I’d never met, but who was also going to the conference, wrote me a note.

She told me not to worry about my outfits.  How I could just be myself.  I didn’t need highlights in my hair or lipstick or high-heeled shoes.

She told me Satan attacks before the conference so be ready and stand strong in the Lord.

She told me not to fret over my calling, not to feel like I have to fight or make things happen and not to feel for a moment that it all depends on me.  God could do the work.  All I needed to do was show up in obedience.

She obeyed God’s prompting, and she blessed me because she was obedient, speaking words of encouragement to me just when I needed them.

I read in Acts a powerful story of the church’s impact:

 But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead.  But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe (Acts 14:19-20 ESV).

It’s a two-verse miracle.  A little encounter, barely noticeable in the book of Acts, but a miracle nonetheless.

Paul is stoned, dragged outside the city and left for dead–not just seriously injured or barely alive.

They thought he was already a corpse.

But then….the disciples gathered about him, and Paul stood up, walked back into the city, and went on another journey the very next day.

He didn’t even need a week to fully recover.

Maybe the disciples prayed for him.  Perhaps they gathered so they could plan how to bury him. The Bible doesn’t fill us in on the details.

All it says is that in the moment he was broken, they gathered around him and he had new strength.

They could have left Paul there as a hopeless case.

They could have been busy, forgetful or too focused on their own problems to care.

They could have feared being stoned themselves.

No, they gathered around the wounded one, and God performed a miracle.

God works miracles of healing through His people when we choose to love another.

I feel the challenge.

If Paul were stoned today, would I choose to gather around him?

Or am I too busy, too self-protective, too self-focused, too self-indulgent, too self-seeking, too prideful, too forgetful…..to minister to one in need?

To write an email….to send a note…to share a meal…..to make a phone call….to invite a friend….to pray for the hurting…to take the time.

And what if it hadn’t been Paul, a leader in the church?  What if it was the smallest of the small who’d been stoned and left for dead?

Would I still take the time?

We love others with Christ’s love when we choose compassion over comfort.

We love like Jesus when we reach out instead of draw in.

That day as I flopped back in my bed in frustrated annoyance and insecurity, a  woman I didn’t know ‘gathered’ around me.

She had her own bags to pack.  Her own plans to finalize.  Her own life to manage.

But she reached out to me with kindness, and God moved.

How can we show someone that love today?

(Just a note that Luke wrote about this miracle in the book of Acts, and as a physician he seems very careful to say that Paul appeared dead or seemed dead.  He does not claim that Paul actually was raised from the dead, only that he seemed dead for a moment and then got up, walked into the city, and was recovered enough for a journey the next day.  Still a miracle–but a miracle of healing, not resurrection.)

This is Mine. God said.

Ephesians 1

“Mine.”

My son drags his dark blue towel through the living room.  It’s not even bath night, so I’m not quite sure what inspired him to stake this claim.

But he pulls it along behind him and then holds it out so I can see his territory.

“Mine.”

And then to punctuate the point, he points to the “A” I sewed onto the towel and says, “A. Andrew’s towel.”

Now, sometimes he has this whole “mine” thing mixed up.

He says, “mine” as he snatches books out of his sisters’ hands, and their blankets, and their toys, and their toothbrushes and hairbrushes, and their jackets and hats, and their shoes.

If you listen to him some days, you’d think the whole world was his personal possession.

He’s territorial like that, more than any of my girls ever were.  He stakes claims.  He demands rights.

And he holds onto what he thinks is his with a He-Man grip and a warrior’s willingness to defend his belongings by any means necessary.

When you’re two years old, you just want what you want, I suppose.

So, I teach him.  I take stands against the tiny tyrant within him.  I defend his sisters from his raids through their stuff, and when he finds something that is his, I’m quick to agree, and then teach him to share.

Yet, while I’m working to expand his vision of the world, to remind him that others matter and we can’t just trample all over them (or bite them or hit them or pull their hair), and to be gentle, and to be giving and generous….I’m also feeling a different kind of soul-challenge myself.

I wonder if I have that same warrior within to defend what Christ says is mine.

Or do I too often let the world and let others and let Satan and let my own insecurities and fears snatch away what God has given me?

In Ephesians, I read:

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3 ESV).

Paul tells us what belongs to us in Christ, because of Jesus, not because we’ve earned it or worked hard to receive it.

Louie Giglio lays it all out in his book, The Comeback:

In Ephesians, the phrase ‘in Christ’ is used 10 times in the first 14 verses. That is,

You’re blessed in Christ.  You’re redeemed in Christ.  You have forgiveness of sins in Christ.  You were chosen in Christ to be holy and blameless. You have every spiritual blessing in Christ. You were included in Christ. You’ve been made aware of the plans of God in Christ. In Christ you’ve been sealed with the Holy Spirit.  In Christ you’ve been loved.  In Christ is where the hope comes (bold emphasis is mine).

God says all of this belongs to us when we are in Christ.

And yet I can live defeated and depleted.

I harp on my sins and mistakes, I beat myself up with what I did wrong.

That typo.  That stupid thing I said.  I should have called her and I forgot.  I lost my temper. I’m not a good enough wife.  I wasn’t gentle with my kids.  I was foolish with my time.  I haven’t prayed enough.  I’m not a good enough Christian.  I didn’t exercise today.  I haven’t been making my kids practice the piano.  I’m not a good enough mom.  I missed notes on the piano.  What I wrote isn’t as good as what she wrote.   A friend is depending on me and I’m sure I’m letting her down.  I forgot to send the card that I meant to send and even bought and wrote but just haven’t put in the mailbox.  I’m not a good enough friend.  I should spend more time in Bible study. I should spend less time on social media.  On the other hand, I’m not doing enough on social media as a writer.  I should drink more water and less everything else.   I wanted to do that project on Pinterest with my kids and I didn’t.  I’m just not good enough.

That could be just half an hour in my head.

I should.  I need to.  I didn’t. 

I failed.

God says in Christ I’m forgiven.

He says in Christ I’m loved.

Ephesians says in Christ, I’m chosen and made holy, blameless.

In Christ, I can live with hope instead of hopelessness.

In Christ, I am redeemed.  In Christ, I am blessed.

So I need to start claiming what’s mine and living in what’s mine and defending what’s mine instead of living without.

“This is Mine.  Heather’s.”

God says this belongs to me.

 

When It’s Time to Say Goodbye

Deuteronomy 1

Playdate protocol.

That’s what I review with my daughters in the last 5 minutes before we exit our minivan and enter their friend’s home.

Do not fight with each other.

Say please and thank you.

Clean up your messes.

Do not fight with each other.

Do show respect to her mom and call her Mrs. _____ and obey what she tells you.

Do make sure you know where the bathroom is.

Do not fight with each other (I’m sensing a theme, here……)

And, when it is time to go, thank them for having you over and go.  Do not delay.  Do not whine about leaving.  Do not take 40 minutes putting on your shoes. Do not ignore my presence.  Do not invite yourself over to their house tomorrow or beg me for a sleepover.  Do not ask me when the next playdate will occur as we are actually, technically still having a playdate at this very moment.  Do not run and hide, hoping I won’t find you and take you home.  Do not pull out more toys.  Do not whisper to your friend to climb into our minivan thinking that I won’t ask her to come out.

Saying goodbye.  That’s the hardest part of playing with a friend.

Oh, I’ll tell the truth, saying goodbye is one of the hardest life-skills—period—for children and adults.

I have my own issues with leaving.  After all, I dislike change.

Dislike?  Not quite the word, exactly.

More like:  Hate, detest, abhor….change.  Yes, that’s it.

I settle right into my comfortable routine, doing what I’ve always done, ministering how I’ve always ministered.  I take God’s call and keep on trekking, day after day after day in the same direction.

Then, He tells me it’s time for something new.

Time to say goodbye, pack my tent, and head off in a new direction.  Maybe even an unknown direction or at least an unfamiliar direction.

I’m tempted to hide or beg to stay or pretend I didn’t hear God’s call.  Anything, anything at all, other than actually embrace change.

Sometimes we refuse God’s invitation to step out of the old and step into the new.

We just keep right along, working as hard as ever doing the thing we love to do.

But He has moved on.  His favor has moved on.  His blessing, His direction, His guidance, His anointing has moved on.

And, what are we doing anyway?  Trying to work in our own strength and hold things together because we just don’t want to let go?  Because it hurts too much to relinquish that control and trust God with the future?

Maybe God has asked someone else to step up into that ministry, and we’re robbing them of the blessing of obedience because we won’t step down already and get out of the way.

Goodbye. 

God gives us permission to say it at times.  We say goodbye to ministries we love and relationships we adore, to jobs we’ve enjoyed and to seasons of our life that have grown cozy and comforting.

We say goodbye not because our ministry is ending, but because it is changing.  We say goodbye because God has called us to follow Him anew.

In Acts 20, we see how Paul calls his dear friends from Ephesian church together and tells them he’s moving on to Jerusalem, and he doesn’t expect to see them again.

Of course, they’d want him to stay.  He wasn’t just moving on in ministry; He was moving away from dear friends without the advantage of Facebook and email.

Yet, God called and Paul obeyed:

And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, 38 being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship (Acts 20:36-38 ESV).

I’ve been praying over my own goodbyes….the places where God is telling me to move on, to let it go and strike out into the new.

That’s when I read this command God gave to Israel:

‘You have stayed at this mountain long enough.  It is time to break camp and move on.’ (Deuteronomy 1:6-7 NLT).

Have you lingered at this mountain long enough, content to rest here and set up camp?

If God has called you to break camp and move on….pack up your tent, say your goodbyes, and go.

Don’t fret or worry over what’s behind.  Leave that in God’s hands.  He’s got it.

Just go when He calls you to go, because you want to be with Jesus, always with Jesus, never lagging behind Him, always right by His side.

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

Copyright © 2015 Heather King

Is it time for the bus yet?

1 corinthians 15

When you’re one-and-a-half years old there are a few things you need to know.

Mom and dad are the boss.

Don’t flush things down the toilet.

Don’t eat the cat litter or the cat food or really anything that mom has not put on a plate and handed you to eat.

And this: It’s way more fun when your sisters are home from school.

My son has figured out that the secret to a happy day is not spending the day at home with mom all by his lonesome self.

This morning, my five-year-old tried to walk out the door to school and this baby boy grabbed a hold of her backpack, screaming, pulling her back away from the door and would not let go. Would. Not.   I practically had to crowbar his hand off so she wouldn’t miss the bus.

Our conversations yesterday went like this:

Andrew at 10:00 a.m.:  Bus?

Mom (that’s me): No, not yet.  No Bus.

Andrew at 10:30 a.m.:  Bus?

Mom: No.  No bus.  Not yet.

Andrew at 11:00, 11:15, and again at 11:30:  Bus?

Mom: No, buddy.  No bus.

Andrew every 5 minutes from 11:30 to 12:20:  Bus, bus, bus, bus, bus, bus, bus, bus, bus, bus?

Mom: Nap time.

Andrew the moment I pick him up from his crib at 2:30 and then at 3:00 and 3:15 : Bus?

Mom: Almost, babe.  So close.

Andrew at 3:25: Bus?

Mom:  Yes.  Bus. Absolutely.  We will go get the girls from school now.  It may be a bit early, but by golly we are driving to the school right this second.

Andrew:  Shoes?

Yes, dear one, shoes.  Yes, we will load into the minivan and wait in the pick-up line and get our girls from school and then your day will be perfect.

You gotta love such focused determination and single-minded purpose!

In 2 Samuel, I read about a mighty warrior named Eleazer.  The Philistines gathered for battle and Israel retreated. They took one look at the size and force of the enemy and ran away.

Eleazer didn’t, though.

He stayed right where he was…alone….and faced down the enemy.

Apparently, he ‘stood his ground and struck down the Philistines till his hand grew tired and froze to the sword.’ (2 Samuel 23:10 NIV).

Not only did he survive against impossible odds, he single-handedly won a victory for Israel that day: “The troops returned to Eleazar, but only to strip the dead” (2 Samuel 23:10 NIV).

One man fought back a horde with such determination that his hand had to be pried off his sword at the end of the battle.

Yes, by himself.  He defeated the Philistine army on his own.

His fellow-soldiers slunk back after abandoning the battlefield, but they didn’t have anything to do. No enemies to fight off. No victory to win. All they did was pillage the dead bodies for weapons and armor.

You gotta love it, this focused determination and single-minded purpose.

Maybe you’re like me.  Maybe you give up too easily.

If I were Andrew, I’d probably throw in the towel the first time I said, “bus?” and mom said, “No.”

I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t stand ground on the battlefield alone when all my fellow soldiers abandoned the field.  And I probably wouldn’t slash at the enemy until my hand froze in place on the hilt of my sword.

But I should.

Because God calls us to supernatural courage and perseverance.

Sometimes we think His calling and His will means open doors and easy progress.  We think if this is His plan, He’ll remove every obstacle, every difficulty, every enemy from our path.

And then, at the first obstacle, or when it gets hard or even uncomfortable, we question.  Did you bring me here, God?  Is this your plan, God?  Are you really at work here? 

It takes discernment, of course, to know that God has called you to this ministry, this relationship, this place, this job, this stance, this challenge.  He’s brought you here and it’s hard. There are days when you’re weary. Maybe you want to give up.

When trouble comes, don’t question God, look to Him for help.

Go back to the calling.  Remember what God said.

Then, knowing that God has brought you here, remember that He will bring you out.  He will not abandon you.  So, stand strong.  Don’t abandon the battlefield.

Paul says it like this:

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV).

What is your favorite verse about perseverance?
Here are 35 Bible verses to read on perseverance and not giving up.

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.

It’s 3:00 AM, Give or Take An Hour

It’s 3:00 a.m., give or take an hour.  I didn’t look at the clock when I heard my baby’s cry in the night.

When I slip into the room, I hear him sniffling through his stuffy nose.  He’s been up several times already tonight.  After this, he’ll probably continue to wake every hour or so until morning.

His cry is weary and sad, like he’s asking me to fix what I’m unable to heal.  Like he doesn’t understand why he feels so rotten.  Like he’s apologizing for waking me up yet again.

He scrambles to sit up.  Then he tucks himself into my chest and his head drops down ever-so-slowly onto my shoulders.ortbergquote

I feel his breathing ease into that slow rhythm of rest.  His body radiates warmth and I gently stroke my hand across his forehead and feel the slight fever.

He has this fine, blond dusting of hair on his head.  I comb it down with my fingers, slow….gentle….the lightest touch.

He’s asleep.

With four sick kids, I’ve been up about 4 times already that night.  I know my future, no crystal ball needed.  I’ll likely be up every hour from now until sunshine and the rush of the day begins.

So, the practical side of me knows I need to ease that baby boy back into the crib and slip out of the room again.

Get as much sleep as you can, ’cause, girl, you’re going to need it.

The practical side of me is so smart.

But this baby boy snuggles into me and makes this busy, rushing, speedster of a momma pause, rest, breathe in and out and really listen to the rhythm of breath and the rhythm of life.

Usually, he’s on-the-go (like me).  I try to cuddle him, and he pushes away to pester the cat or crawl after his older sisters or grab at the TV remote, cell phone, or Kindle or whatever catches his attention, which is pretty much anything and pretty much all the time.

I almost never get to hug him.

When he starts walking, what then?

When he’s off to school….off to driving…off to life?  What then?

Better to sit right here in the black of 3:00 a.m. (give or take an hour) and hold my son just a few moments longer.

I think of what I’d been reading that day in Pathway to Purpose by Katie Brazelton.  How she said,

“I now know that the most important stuff that happens in life is often challenging, rarely exhilarating, and frequently frightening.”

and this:

“It is not God’s plan for you to spend today chasing after your future one thing when your many things are right in front of you.”

Surely in this moment, this is the most important thing.

We sure can get caught up in searching from some grand revelation of God’s great plan for our lives.  We want to know His will for us, His purposes for us, how He’s going to use us, not just today but long into the future.

Yet, here in the night, sleep-deprived, zombie-brained momma that I am, I feel that God sees me cuddling a sick child.

I think how too often we miss this truth:

God’s great purpose for us is to serve Him humbly, sacrificially and obediently in the here and now of life.

We don’t have to search beyond that.

I think of Lydia:

 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us. (Acts 16:13-15 NIV).

Lydia was the first European Christian convert recorded in Scripture, a woman who accepts Christ, shares it with her family, and offers Paul a place to stay while he shares the gospel.

But it began because she said “yes” to God in the ordinary.pathwaytopurpose

“Yes,” to showing up to work.

“Yes” to listening to a missionary.

“Yes” to responding to the gospel.

“Yes” to sharing it with her family.

“Yes” to opening her home as a missions base and church.

Maybe this month, as I’m learning when to say ‘Yes,’ it’s less about joining programs, committees, and ministries, and more about starting with simple obedience and faithful service day after day.

Looking for purpose?  Looking for God’s plan?

Look to today.

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

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

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

 

Am I Asking Jesus to Leave?

She said he was afraid.

A small team from our church took VBS on the go this year, sharing the lessons, songs and games with kids in the community.prayerpresence

One of the ladies shared with us this past Sunday what that mission to area children was like.

She tells how on the last day, those little ones gathered around the teacher for the Bible story about Paul.

He was such a Bad Guy, she told them.

She told all about his past, all those mean things he did to Christians.

But then she told how he met Jesus and she read from the start of his letters to the churches, how he said the same thing over and over and over again:

“I, Paul, a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ…..”

This little boy, cuddled next to another leader, winced and sucked in his breath every single time she said it.

The Lord Jesus Christ

He’d only ever heard those words as cursing in anger and bursts of outrage in his home.

My husband puts the hurt into words, how this little boy has a “Pavlovian fear response to the name of the only One who could ever save him.”

Peter shared the truth:

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12 NIV).

We sit in that comfy sanctuary in the middle of a tiny town in rural Virginia and our hearts break because missions starts right here.

There are children who don’t even know what a Bible is or who God is or that the name of Jesus isn’t a cuss word…and they live right here.

But there’s something else….

I read in the Gospels:

 Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left (Luke 8:37 NIV).

The people were afraid of Jesus at work.

They weren’t embracing the healing he offered and not the salvation either.  They sent Him away and with it they refused all hope of rescue.

All because they were afraid.

Maybe they didn’t wince at the sound of His name, but they feared Jesus’ presence.

Were they afraid of His power?

Were they afraid of shaking things up?  Afraid of what salvation might cost?  Fearful of what they might lose if they followed Him?

I remember the Israelites crowded around the base of Mt. Sinai, watching the pyrotechnical display of God’s glory, the thunder and lighting, the cloud of smoke, the trumpet blast:

When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance  and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”…The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was (Exodus 20:18-19, 21 NIV).

They trembled there at the mountain, slinking back in fear, remaining at a distance even when God invited them to come close.

This holy fear of God has its place, the reminder of His greatness and mighty power and how small we are indeed.

He is God.  I am not.

He is holy.  I am not.

We need the reawakening of awe.

But I wonder if we ever push God away in fear, or hide away in the shadows, remaining at a distance even when He whispers to us, ”Come…..closer….nearer….”

Are we too afraid that He’ll disrupt our lives? Or that drawing close will cost us and it will just be too much to pay?

Do we stand right there at the base of His presence and choose the safety of distance instead?

And maybe we don’t say it as bluntly as the crowd that sent Jesus away, maybe we don’t tell Him, “Can you just go off in your boat and do your work somewhere else?”

Maybe we know just enough…certainly more than a scared little boy listening to a lesson at Vacation at Bible School: yes, God loves us….yes, Jesus is our Savior. Maybe it’s just ‘blah, blah, blah’…just so many words.

Yet, maybe we shut Him out. Maybe we avoid the conviction of Scripture or the passion of all-in of worship. Maybe we want to sing “safe” songs on Sunday morning, hear “safe” messages, leave the Bible reading up to someone else, avoid the accountability of church or the nudge of the Holy Spirit to lay it all down in surrender.

Because we’re afraid.

Lord, help me stop being afraid and start drawing close to You. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be than in Your presence.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I ‘Learn to Say, ‘No?’

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

Copyright © 2014 Heather King