Bending and not breaking

She’s my daughter, after all, a miniature me in many ways.

So, why didn’t I expect it?  Why did I treat her less gently than God treats me?

Such a simple parenting issue: Daughter colored instead of reading before bed.  She ran out of time. Lights out, no reading for the night.

But then there was the reaction, like dynamite-meets-fire because the routine was broken and she couldn’t be flexible, couldn’t bend, couldn’t change up what we always do .

She and I both struggle here.  We cling to routine for personal sanity and prefer the scheduled, the planned, the known, the normal, the everyday and the expected.

Every night, she reads before bed.  Every single night.  Even before she could read, she flipped through the pages and invented tales about the pictures.

That’s me.  Whether it’s 9:30 or midnight when I finally ease into my own bed, I must read also.  Not that I prefer it or casually enjoy it.  I must read, even if I only scan through one single page before I pass out on my pillow.

So, surely I should have expected that when I asked her to bend and skip the evening marathon reading session for one…single…..night, she wouldn’t bend at all.

She’d break.  And break she did.

I am brittle like this, too: Snapping or shattering into pieces of emotional disaster when God nudges me out of the comfortable beauty of a planned day, or week, or year, or season of life.

And it’s not that God allows me to live life so rigid and in-control.  He won’t let me stay in this place of “needing to know the details” and “always having a plan.”

No, He asks that I trust Him.

He asks for faith without seeing.

But He teaches me gently, nudging me with the unexpected–a phone call, an appointment, a sick child, traffic, a cancellation– and then cleaning up the mess of me as I fluster and stress, react and over-react.

Still He leads me out in faith and then comforts me when it’s hard, always taking me one step farther into the faith-life and the blind-walk and one more step away from my day planner and kitchen calendar.

I’m grateful for the grace.

Surely, I’m not the only one who hates the surprises and plain-out hyperventilates at the unexpected.

I consider the 72 followers, sent out by Jesus with instructions that would probably make me tremble:

 Carry no money belt, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ (Luke 10:4-5 NASB). 

They had no travel agenda, no itinerary, no schedule, no advance contacts or fall-back positions.  No money for the hotel when hospitality failed.  No change of shoes for weather fluctuations or suitcases stuffed with extra underwear and layers of clothing “just in case.”

“Whatever” house they entered, is where they sought rest and provision.  Sometimes they received it.  Other times not.

Peter may have loved this unexpected lifestyle.  He was a speak-what-comes-to-mind, do-whatever-pops-into-your-head kind of fellow.  Eager to hop out of fishing boats and walk on water, willing to shout out promises and convictions at the slightest whim. He lived for the adventure not the agenda.

Peter mystifies me a bit.

But Thomas I understand, and what if Thomas was in the mix of 70?

He always wanted the facts and the proof.   Yes, Thomas and I would be the ones studying the maps and searching for hotels, phone numbers, restaurants, and recommendations on Google before we set out on any journey of “faith.”

And perhaps we’d be the ones laying awake at night because we liked our own bed with our own pillow and cup of tea and a book to read before sleep.

Jesus would send us out anyway.

We might struggle and maybe we’d even have a meltdown and need God to piece us back together with superglue, but Luke writes that in the end, “the Seventy returned with joy” (Luke 10:17 HCSB).

Maybe Jesus indulges me in my nighttime reading habits and doesn’t ask me to travel from town to town without a packed lunch or luggage.

But when He asks me to ease my death-grip on my daily schedule and my long-term plans and the way I’ve always done things, after the aftermath of my mess…. there is joy.

Because it’s when He shatters the confines of my expectations that I feel His peace, not the comfort of being in control, but true peace and the settled assurance that Yes, He can care for me.

That’s when I see His glory.

That’s when I’m finally bending and flexible, no longer too fragile for Him to use.

Originally published 5/3/2013

I’ve been silently watching while God does this thing

Quiet for me can become a habit that’s hard to break and lately  I’ve retreated into the semi-safety of silence.

And once I choose silence, I generally like to linger there for a while.

Maybe you’ve noticed or maybe it’s slipped by unrecognized.  I’ve posted less these past few weeks and shared old devotionals rather than penning new ones.

Instead of writing, I’ve been watching with a hushed anticipation of what God will do.

But here I am today sharing a little of the story and my voice feels rusty from disuse.

This is part of our family testimony, though, and truly God has indeed been at work, so it’s time to tell you what God has done!

Our family has squeezed into our tiny home for years, adding children (4!!!) without adding bedrooms or square footage.

We’ve talked often about moving, but the timing was never right for this reason or that reason.  Maybe we weren’t sure about a job issue or where we should move to.  So we waited.

But in January, the very day I put away the Christmas decorations, I started working on Project “Move Our Family.”

It’s been a process, that’s for sure!  We have purged and organized and moved boxes into storage.  We have painted walls neutral colors, taken down family photos, and replaced flooring and trim.  We have fixed and spruced up, cleaned and donated endless bags of “extras”  to the thrift store.

We felt God’s “go” and “go”we did.

Then, like the crazy people we sometimes are, we put our house on the market just before performance week in our latest community theater production, which is pretty much as busy as busy people can get.

And it sold.

That first day we put it on the market, there were torrential rains and three couples braved the mud and the downpour to come see our house.

I told my kids, “No one who sees our house in this horrid wet is going to want to buy it.”

I was wrong.

A few days later, we had a contract on our house and we had to find a new place  to live.

And we did, that very day, and we are excited about the blessing of this new home.

It’s been this huge, potentially overwhelming, certainly life-changing adventure that has rolled along in simplicity.  One need taken care of, and then another, and then another.

I can’t say exactly why I guarded this as some sacred secret, not daring to write it down just yet, but maybe it’s  because when God is on the move you just stand back and watch.  It’s not something you’re ready to talk about right away.

The prophet Habakkuk said it this way:

*The LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him” (Habakkuk 2:20)

The glory of God defies description.

I haven’t been writing maybe, but I’ve been cleaning the oven and scrubbing showers.  I’ve been packing boxes and wiping up every spot I can find on every surface in the house.

I feel a little like Peter may have felt in Luke 9 during the transfiguration when he saw the full glory of Christ:

Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said  (Luke 9:32-33 ESV).

Peter had no clue what he was saying or doing.  It didn’t make perfect sense.  He was simply overcome and thrown into restless movement because he was stirred to respond somehow!

I have been overcome, as well, and it’s hard some days to sit still.

Here’s the truth, my friends, God’s calling isn’t always like this.

You hear Him say “Go” or “Come” and it’s the beginning of a battle.  The wait is long and wearying.  Obstacles loom.  Sometimes houses take forever to sell even when God is indeed in the moving.

Don’t give up if you know God is in this.

I’ve been there.  In this past year, every blessing has felt like promised land ground I had to fight my heart out to win.  There have been disappointments and there has been discouragement.

It’s been exhausting.

But there are also times when you take one tiny step of obedience and God takes care of every detail, every need, and you’re stunned into the silence of awe at God’s gracious care and mercy.

And the silence becomes a holy place where we rest in God’s goodness and marvel at who He is and what He has done.

 

When They Cancel the Fireworks on July Fourth

psalm 118

“This is the best July 4th ever.”

That’s what my five-year-old said when I served up red, white, and blue pancakes for breakfast.

And again when we made star-shaped sugar cookies and Jello in patriotic colors.

She announced it at lunch when I sliced up the watermelon, in triangles, per her request.  No plain-old, everyday cubed watermelon.  Triangles are what people had at picnics.  They were exotic and special, making this the best July 4th ever.

She made her declaration when she had corn on the cob for dinner and when I popped popcorn to take with us to the fireworks.

We lugged our gear to the crowded beachfront and she said it again.  Family time at the beach with her grandparents?  Yup, the best July 4th ever.

And when the jellyfish stung her….

And even when the storm clouds showed up on the horizon and the news spread down the beach from family to family that the fireworks were canceled….it didn’t change a thing.  Best July 4th ever.  Even then.

She never waivered.  Never gave up.

Her sisters were doubters and naysayers.

They whined about the fireworks as if one July 4th without seeing live fireworks somehow destroyed all of their childhood memories and traditions.

I stood on the sidewalk while the five-year-old on my left still said, “It was the best July 4th ever” and the child on my right announced it was the “Worst July 4th ever” and desperately searched for alternative fireworks options to redeem the night.

She wanted to take back control.  You can’t control lightning and thunder showers, and that shocked her little system.  July 4th had to happen a particular way.  It had to include particular things.

And if it didn’t meet every expectation and check off every check box, than it was a big failure.

We stopped by the snow cone place on the way home for a final treat.

We cracked their glowsticks even if we weren’t sitting outside in the dark and my toddler giggled at the sight.

At home, we snuggled onto the couch and stayed up late watching the Washington, DC fireworks extravaganza on the TV, complete with cannon blasts and the 1812 Overture.

Maybe July 4th was different this year, but it was also beautiful and fun. Family memories and character-shaping happen most when life surprises you with the unexpected.

I told that to my kids as we finish up nighttime prayers.

You can’t always control every detail of life.  Weather changes.  Storms come.  Plans get changed or maybe cancelled.

Don’t throw a tantrum of disappointment or get worked up in a frenzy of effort trying to salvage the day.

Take a cue from their little sister, who celebrated the beautiful and the extraordinary all day long.

They nod their heads a bit and confess that it really was a great day.

I don’t know if the lesson sinks in, maybe it’s one you learn for a long time, maybe it’s one I’m still learning myself.

This…..this right here….the day you are living right this moment….could be the best day ever.  All it may take is some watermelon slices or some food coloring in pancake batter–and the joy of a five-year-old determined to celebrate.

How we deal with the unexpected, the surprises, the changes in our plans and the disappointments is one of the truest, most essential things about us and the greatest commentary on our faith.

This week, I read my youngest daughter a devotional about disappointed disciples, those who turned away from Jesus because His teaching was hard. It required so much.  It shocked their system and they just couldn’t keep following Jesus when He didn’t meet all of their expectations.

So, Jesus asked the remaining followers, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” (John 6:67 ESV).

That’s when Peter said it:

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.  We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69 ESV).

To whom shall we go?

Only Jesus has what we really need.

Maybe our plans don’t work out the way we hoped.

We planned for fireworks and then it rained on our little parade of expectations.

Maybe what Jesus asks us to do is hard.

Maybe we’re straining to see the beauty in what God is doing right here and now.

So, we press in and we press on. We don’t abandon Jesus and look for answers somewhere else like those followers who left Him. We lean on Him all the more.

He is the help we need, no matter what we face.  He is how we have joy and hope in every situation.

But it requires a letting go….and letting God.

And it requires a certain kind of faith, the joy-filled kind, the kind that rejoices in all that God is doing and all that God has done, and the kind that holds on tight and absolutely refuses to let go even when the hardest of times come.

This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it
Psalm 118:24

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

Saying sorry while blaming the other person isn’t really apologizing

psalm 32

There’s an art to apologizing.

We’re still learning that art here at my house.

There’s this one key ingredient I’m looking for: Honesty.  Genuine repentance.  True sorrow.

I tell my kids, “You have to mean it.”

The battles start young and they surely are battles.  It seems so simple.  I tell the raging toddler, “Say ‘sorry'”

There is screaming and stubborn refusal.  Jaw tightens.  Fists clench.

The truth is, it isn’t simple.  Even a two-year-old knows that it’s never easy to confess, “I was wrong.”

Never easy to fess up, own up, and step up to your own personal responsibility and admit weakness or error.

That’s pride.

It gets the best of us.

Sure, as the kids age, they learn the basics.  No more time outs and threats of punishment and discipline for a lack of apology.

They technically have learned to apologize.

But they’ve also learned how to twist that apology into a sharp-edged weapon.

It’s sneaky, but I’m on to their tactics.

“I’m sorry that you weren’t looking where you were going and tripped on me.”

“I’m sorry that you’re crying drove me so crazy I had to be mean to you.”

“I”m sorry that you never leave me alone when I tell you to.”

“I’m sorry that you always get what you want and that makes me so angry.”

I’m sorry……that this is all really your fault.  You made me do it.  You, you, you.

It breaks this momma’s heart.

Surely it must break God’s heart, too, not just to hear my kids apologize without really apologizing, but to hear me entangle myself in my own bit of guilt-shirking.  He hears how I can twist myself up in knots to justify my own sin.

We can make excuses.  We can point fingers at others.  We can blame circumstances.  We can drown out the Holy Spirit with the noise of our own protests.

But here’s what Paul said:

For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death

Godly sorrow.  That’s what we should have.

Sin breaks the heart of God and it should be breaking our own heart, as well.

Truth is, as a mom, I pray that guilt and godly sorrow eats away at the heart of my kids so that they can’t stand it anymore; they just have to burst out a confession.

I want them to be able to say, “This is what I did wrong….”

I want them to know the freedom of true, genuine, honest, heart-felt repentance like David did:

When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away
Through my groaning all day long.

For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.
Selah.

I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I did not hide;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”;
And You forgave the guilt of my sin (Psalm 32:3-5 NASB).

It sounds cruel, perhaps, but if my kids are clinging to sin, I hope it groans within them all day and night and they feel feverish with guilt and heavy-laden with conviction.

May it be so for me, too.

I’ve been thinking about Peter lately.

Other disciples mourned Jesus’s death.  It’s true.

But Peter grieved all the more, losing His Savior while coming face-to-face with his own sin of betrayal that nailed Christ to that cross.

The Gospels tell us all about it.  They tell how Peter stood at the fire in the courtyard of the High Priest.  They tell all about the three people who identified him as a Jesus-follower and how he blustered out a denial.  They describe the crowing of the rooster and Peter’s desperate tears of deep, deep sorrow for his sin.

How did the Gospel writers know?

How did Luke know?  How did John know all these details so he could write them all down?

How did anyone other than Peter and Jesus know that Peter had totally blown it?

Peter must have told them.  Not just a general confession either. “I sinned.”  He told the whole ugly truth.

He didn’t keep it to himself.  He didn’t cover it over and hide it away.  He didn’t pretend it didn’t happen or make excuses for himself.

Peter didn’t compare himself to the others who had run away that night and figure, “Hey, maybe I’m not so bad after all.”

He confessed.

He repented.

He humbled himself enough to say, “I’m sorry.  This is what I did wrong.”

And that moment of sincere, honest, lay-it-all-out-there confession allowed Jesus to make a new Peter, a leader-of-the-church, humble, teachable Peter.

We bring the mess to Him; He brings the mercy.

And He makes us new.

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

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

Epic Failures; Epic Grace

Mom Failures.

I’ve had them, had some doozies actually.

Anyone else?

There was the year my oldest daughter had been pestering me all week with her chattery excitement about an upcoming birthday party for a friend.  The day of the party, I told her it was time to go and double-checked the invitation on the way out the door.  That’s when I found out that the party actually ended at 2:00, not began at 2:00.  She had missed it completely.  We drove anyway just to bring our present and apologize, but everyone was already gone.psalm145

I had one tearful extrovert of a 5-year-old that day.

And it was my  fault.  My own failure that had ruined her super-exciting day.

I apologized a million times and it still didn’t feel like enough.  I took her to one of those play places with a million bouncy inflatables and she had the most fun jumping herself into exhaustion, but I still knew the truth—I had failed.

Bad moments don’t make bad mamas!”  That’s what Lysa TerKeurst says.

She’s right, of course.  One missed birthday party doesn’t define me, doesn’t stuff me into a box of rejection or label me as a Failure-With-a-Capital-F.

But in that moment, it’s so hard to soak in any grace when your soul is rock-hard with shame.

And when you mess it all up, all those other mistakes come crashing right back down on your head from the places you’ve shelved them.  Pretty soon, you’re covered in the trash of remembered failure.

You always….You never…..

We hear the absolute declarations that we simply are not good enough, our own voice of condemnation echoing in our own head and heart.

You always make a mess of things.

You never get it right.

You’re always so stupid, so flaky, so forgetful, so short-tempered….

You’ll never be as good as she is…

God can’t use you.

Chris Tiegreen writes:

We are apt to think that failure disqualifies us from serving God well.  To the contrary, sometimes it is the only thing that does qualify us.  It removes any pretense of self-reliance.  Like a phoenix rising, we ascend from the ashes of our own undoing, testifying to the resurrecting power of God.  From failure to forgiveness, weakness to strength, death to life—it’s God’s way.  Remember that the next time you despair over your failures (365 Pocket Devotions).

We’re mess-ups, all of us.  Somehow, some way, at some time, we’re going to fail.

That’s why we need grace, after all.  That’s why we needed a Savior: because on our own, we’ll never be perfect, never good enough, never all right.

But there’s Jesus, not just ready to pour out forgiveness afterward; He prays for us in advance.

Jesus looked right at Simon Peter sitting at the Passover Meal, that Last Supper, and said:

But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32  NIV).

What grace is this?

Before Peter ever denied Christ, Jesus had been praying for him.

Before Peter’s sin, Jesus already assured him of restoration, promising not just that he would “turn back,” but that Peter could be the one to “strengthen your brothers.”

Jesus promised Peter, “After you’ve failed and you’ve returned to me, I can still use you. More than that, that’s WHEN I can use you.”

Sometimes our own failure makes us most useful to God.

When we receive grace, we learn to give grace.

When we are at our weakest, we learn to rely on His strength and not our own (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Maybe we don’t see the hope right away, not with the mess lying fresh all around us.  It’s hard to see beauty in all those ashes.  Hard to see grace in the hard and mercy in the difficult.

But the Psalmist wrote:

The Lord helps the fallen
and lifts those bent beneath their loads
(Psalm 145:114 NLT).

Have you tripped up?  Have you fallen?  Have you crashed headlong into that dark pit?

Do you feel weighed down by the load of shame and guilt and condemnation?

The Lord is there to help you and to hold you up.

Give what’s broken to Him and let Him bring you to something new, something beautiful, and something for your good.

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

What My Monday Soul Needs to Know

My resolution for Monday:

1chronicles

Photo by just2shutter; 123rf.com

To breathe in and breathe out, deep taking in of peace and pushing out of contentment.  No catching my breath in anxiety, hyperventilating stress, and rushing to the point of breathless exhaustion.

Just breathe.  Move through the day without giving into the push, push, push of “faster, more, do, accomplish, check off the list, get it done.”  Walk as I vacuum, walk as I put away the clothes.  Make that phone call without simultaneously folding underwear and t-shirts.

And spend time with Jesus for relationship not for task-completion.

The temptation is there, of course.  It’s the curse of Monday.  All of the spillover from last week, the messages to read through and answer after taking a Sabbath from all of that “connection” over the weekend, and the new tasks ahead clamor at me for attention.

What was that email I needed to send?
Wasn’t there someone I needed to call?
Was I behind on my reading, my commitments?
Didn’t I need to print this for the week and pack that for tonight and fill out that form and mail back that letter?

It’s a million tiny things nipping at the heels of my Jesus-focused life, yipping and yapping until I turn my attention from Him.

And then when I do sit down to rest at His feet, dear Father, oh my Father, I am so thankful to be in Your presence ….

Still I fail.  Still I pop up every few minutes for the ding of the laundry and the starting of the meal, and the reminder of something else needing to be done.

My time with Him becomes stilted, becomes stale, becomes necessary without being the fresh oxygen in my soul I need for very survival and beyond that, the abundant life He promises.  Necessary only because it’s an assignment, like homework for school.

It’s more like: Read the assigned Bible reading.  Check.  Read the passage in the study for this week’s group discussion.  Check.  Complete the other Bible study . . . while interrupted and racing against the clock:

Must…..finish…..so…..I…..can….check….this….off…..my…..list….and……do…..other…..things.

I wonder if He’d prefer if I just skipped it all rather than flop down at this kitchen table half-hearted and thinking about 50 things clearly more important than He is to me in that moment.

This isn’t relationship.  This is business.

In his book, Prayer, Richard J. Foster wrote:

“Today the heart of God is an open wound of love.  He aches over our distance and preoccupation.  He mourns that we do not draw near to him.  He grieves that we have forgotten him.  He weeps over our obsession with muchness and manyness.  He longs for our presence…

We do not need to be shy.  He invites us into the living room of his heart, where we can put on old slippers and share freely.  he invites us into the kitchen of his friendship, where chatter and batter mix in good fun.  He invites us into the dining room of his strength, where we can feast to our heart’s delight….” (p. 1)

Maybe that’s my problem.  I’ve been barely acknowledging His presence at times at my kitchen table.  Perhaps I should take up His invitation to hang out in His kitchen.  To eat in His presence and share in good company and the intimacy of friendship, not on my terms, but at His offering.

At the Last Supper, the apostle John leaned against Jesus, drew in close and rested against the Savior, even while realizing that Jesus was about to be betrayed (John 13:25).

Why be more like Peter, who in shame and frustration, perhaps even anger at the destruction of his plans and agenda, certainly in fear…”followed him (Jesus) at a distance” (Matthew 26:58) after Christ’s arrest.

Sure, I’m always following, I’m a faithful kind of girl, trailing after God always.  But sometimes I’m just stepping into the imprint of His footsteps rather than walking by His side, following out of obedience only, mostly out of distracted busyness and duty.

This year, I’m pursuing the presence of Christ In August, that means I’m learning to say, ‘no.’  I’m saying it today: “No” to the stress of do and do.  “No” to hyperventilating heaviness of breathless rush.

Today I resolve to breathe in and breathe out, to linger here at the table with Jesus and lean into His presence.  No rushing up from the meal to pursue my own agenda.  No skimming through the page of Scripture to get to the end of the assigned reading.

Leaning into Jesus.  Breathing in and breathing out.  Then walking side by side with Him into my day, not tripping along behind: holding His hand and chatting along the journey.

Originally published October 15, 2012

VBS for grown-ups: Even when you don’t understand….

Vacation Bible School.  That’s just for kids, right?  Silly songs.  Silly skits.  Silly costumes.  Kids stuff.  Sure.

But is there any message in Scripture that God delivers just for people 12 and under? We older and ‘wiser’ ones sometimes make faith so complicated when the simple beauty of truth is what we really need.

This week, I’ll be singing songs and doing those silly skits from Group Publishing’s Weird Animals VBS at my own church.

Here on the blog, I’ll be sharing with you those same stories, the same lessons, the same truth, but for grown-ups.

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I’d been a mom for just under two years when I got pooped on for the first time.

It turns out new babies can’t quite tell when the diaper is on and when Momma has removed it for bath time.

You just never expect this. You go to college, study hard, earn a degree.  Go back to school and earn a Master’s degree.  Have your dream job.1john4-19, photo by Cora Miller

Then two years later you’re cleaning yourself up after being mistaken for a diaper.

Every mom has Kodak moments of familial perfection.  For a few minutes, it’s domestic tranquility.

Kids are healthy.
They used their manners at the dinner table.
The homework is done.
The laundry is put away.
You cooked a delicious and healthy dinner in your Crock Pot and baked homemade bread.

You are, in fact, Super Mom, the ultimate domestic diva.  You are June Cleaver, Betty Crocker, and maybe even Mr. Clean in one grand super hero package.

Until noses start running and children start fighting when you have a headache.  A stomach virus shoots through your family.  You realize that “dressing up” now means wearing the jeans without the worn knees and Sharpie stains from your child’s experiments with permanent marker.

Does Super Mom lose her cape now?

But right then when you’re the diaper,  when you’re worn down and weary, when you’ve cleaned toilets and scrubbed floors and you feel broken and overlooked.

Maybe you pray it: “Can you help a girl out, God?  It’s pretty hard to feel like this job has any eternal significance.  Do you even know what it’s like to put other people first all the time?”

But oh, may we pause there and remember who we’re talking to.

Oh, sure, Jesus was the Savior of mankind.  He had the power of divinity at His fingertips.  He could multiply the bread instead of having to knead it by hand.  He could command the fish into the nets instead of pushing a cart around Wal-Mart with a shopping list, a budget, coupons, and a toddler.

And yet.

When we over-romanticize the life of our Savior, we forget the utter humility and selflessness of Jesus, who emptied Himself for us and sympathizes with us on our hardest days.

Christ bends Himself low to wash our feet and heal our hurts.

And maybe it doesn’t make sense.

Like Peter, I’m tempted at times to refuse the humility of Christ as He stoops to wash my feet.  How shocking to see the Messiah on His knees.

Foolish Peter—he didn’t know how much He needed a Savior who served, so he told Jesus at the Last Supper, “No…you shall never wash my feet” (John 13:8 NIV).  Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

Even when he didn’t understand Jesus’ purpose or plan, Peter submitted.  He stopped protesting and willingly accepted the gift:  “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” (John 13:9).

Maybe Peter didn’t get it, but Jesus knew these disciples needed to see humble ministry face-to-face so He could tell them this:

I’ve set the example.  Go and do the same.

As I’ve washed your feet, wash one another.

I’m still needing this lesson now, on days when I’m the diaper, when I’m worn or weary, when it seems like I’m making no difference, that Jesus made Himself low….for the disciples….for me.

Sometimes grace does the unexpected.  Sometimes God shatters the confines of the cardboard box we’ve put Him in and we just can’t understand: “Why, God?  Why this?  Why not that?”

It doesn’t make sense.

Not to Peter.

Not to us.

Yet, here is what we know:

Even when you don’t understand….Jesus loves you.

And He has a plan and a purpose for this and for you, so we bring it all to Him as an offering:

Lord, I don’t get it, but I know You love me.

Lord, it seems all wrong to me, but I know You love me.

Lord, this ministry You’ve called me to doesn’t seem to have any eternal impact, but I know You love me.

Lord, I don’t see how this can possibly be used for good or how this can be Your best plan, but I know You love me.

Like Peter we submit and we trust.  We quiet our quaking hearts and choose to rest in His love.

Originally posted March 16, 2013 

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

Oh, the stories I could tell

It takes an entire day for the job, but finally it’s done.

That morning I had dashed out to the garage and opened several huge Rubbermaid bins to find the sealed bags of clothes I needed.  Having three girls means we own girls’ clothing in every size for every season and when it’s time to transition from size to size it’s a chore.

Oh my, is it a chore.

I sorted through the dressers and in the closets.  I pulled out piece by piece of clothing from the bins and covered my living room and kitchen in piles for this size and that season and this child and that one.

Then I washed all of the “new” clothes, dried them, folded them and hung them on hangers.Photo by: Martin Damen;  Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_wolfelarry'>wolfelarry / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Packing away the old size, I dashed out to the garage once more and then returned inside to collapse on the sofa with a cup of tea.

Done!

It isn’t without its share of memories, this sorting through old clothes.

I pulled out the outfits and remembered the preschool programs, the weddings, the birthdays, and the handmade treasures…

It’s like flipping through the pages of a photo album and I find myself telling the stories to my daughters as I fold down the ruffles and lace.

I tell them how I know exactly at what age my oldest daughter decided she had to wear dresses, all dresses, all the time—even nightgowns instead of pajama tops and bottoms.

I know it because in the size 4T bag of clothes I find dress after dress after dress.  You’ve never seen so many dresses: Dresses for play and for church and for school and for special occasions and everything in between.

I stretch out on my living room floor and sew a button onto a shirt while my youngest daughter runs her fingers through the buttons in the tin.

And I tell about visiting my great-grandmother’s house when I was a girl and playing with her tins of colorful buttons and stacking her empty spools into towers.

We moms are storytellers so often, the caretakers of the family saga, the ones who remember grandma, great-grandma, and the babies, the births, the marriages, the days both joyful and hard.

So I take time to give my daughters this heirloom: these memories, these stories, these word pictures from the past.

It’s more than just generation-to-generation storytelling, though.  I consider this as I sew and tell those stories that Saturday afternoon.

All this month, I am drawing near to the presence of Christ by creating beauty, and this is the truth I find:  That God’s creative work in our lives compels us to tell others about Him and what He has done.  This is a story we have to tell…

The Psalmists urged us to:

Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! (Psalm 105:2 NIV).

Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does (Psalm 96:3 NLT).

I want my life to be this perpetual testimony of God’s grace and kindness and the giving Him glory.

I want this so that when others talk about me–when they tell the story of my life—they will talk about Him.  Let my story be utterly wrapped up in His Story, indistinguishable and inseparable.

Tabitha was a woman who followed Christ in her city of Joppa and “was always doing good and helping the poor.”

When she died, the people called for Peter to come and as he stood there in the room with her body: “All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas (Tabitha) had made while she was still with them” (Acts 9:39).

I stand in front of my own piles of clothes and remember our family stories.

That’s what the widows did.  They held up physical reminders of Tabitha’s past, of her kindness and self-sacrifice, of her service, of the way she used her gifts to glorify God and bless others.

So Peter called for Tabitha to come back from the dead and even this became part of her story, her testimony to God.

Amazingly, “she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord.” (Acts 9:40-42).

The miracle started with a woman serving others in the simplest of ways.

It continued with the women in her town telling this story to Peter.

And it ended with God’s glory and with many people believing in Him.

We also are storytellers about the heroes of faith from the past and about the God who does wonders.

And we also are forming our own story, serving, loving, giving and trusting that the legacy we leave is one that gives glory to the God who saved us, even if it’s as simple as buttons and sashes and telling the tale to our children.

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 ‘Create Beauty’?

Originally published February 18, 2013 

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

All the things you can’t do until you’re four years old….and why that’s mercy

She screamed almost the entire way home from church.

It was a shock to me.  After church ended, my preschooler bounced out of the nursery cheerful and excited, waving to everyone we greeted in the hallway.

But when my daughters climbed all over each other to claim seats in the mini-van for the 12-minute ride home from church—as if they were choosing their positions for a round-the-world tour—my three-year-old hopped in the back seat.

She knew better.  No booster seat until her fourth birthday.  In the meantime, she was restricted to the five-point harness-equipped seats in the middle of the van.  Normally, she just joked, hopping into the back and giggling hysterically until I motioned her to her normal place.

Not that day.  Apparently she decided that enough was enough.  This waiting until her fourth birthday thing was totally overrated.  No ballet classes until she’s four.  No back seat until she’s four.  No three-day-a-week preschool until four.  No Children’s Church until she’s four.

Sheesh.  It’s a hard life being just three years old.047

The thing is, I love her and it’s my job not just to give her what she wants, but to give her what she needs.  Protection, limits, boundaries, rules, bedtimes, baths, healthy meals, love and affection.  That’s my job.  Making sure she’s in the car seat is part of the parental package.

So I made her move seats.  And she screamed herself to sleep on the drive home from church.

Perhaps to her my restrictions were unreasonable, even mean,

Really, though, it was love and it was grace.  It was looking out for her best no matter what.

We don’t always know what grace and mercy really look like either, do we?

We think that promotion, that dream-guy, that check in the mail, that recovery, that hugely successful ministry event, that healthy child—yes, that’s picture perfect grace.  Those actions that don’t fit our Grace Template are the mysteries of God, the painfully chafing rub of disappointed religious expectations.

In The Book of Common Prayer these last two mornings, I prayed:

“Show us your mercy, O Lord”

“And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies,
That with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives”

“Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy.
Lord, show us your love and mercy;
For we put our trust in you.”

Not only have I prayed for mercy, but I’ve prayed for the awareness of it, the ability to see with a truly thankful heart how God is graciously caring for me.

Even when it doesn’t look much like grace at the time.

Even when I’d rather have the easy and obvious mercy, the kind you pop up out of your pew on testimony Sunday to share, the kind that others applaud and rejoice with you about.

I’ve prayed to see with new eyes, looking through a filter of trust in God.  That means trusting in His character, trusting in His love, trusting in His timing, trusting Him no matter what.titus3-5

The apostle Peter encountered people just like me, those who thought if God wasn’t quick to fulfill His promises, if they had to wait too long or endure too much pain along the way, then God wasn’t fulfilling His end of the “bargain.”

God didn’t move when I thought He would move.  God didn’t provide the way I thought He’d provide.  God didn’t come through for me the way I wanted.

Sometimes we immediately assume the problem is with God.  Maybe He isn’t really good!  Maybe He isn’t really gracious.

That’s what the people in 2 Peter were questioning.  Christ hadn’t returned right away as they expected and life was hard for the persecuted church and waiting was difficult.

Really, though, the problem isn’t with God.  The problem is with our expectations.  The problem is we’ve stopped looking at Him with eyes of trust.

Peter wrote to these struggling believers:

 The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent (2 Peter 3:9 NLT).

God wasn’t being delinquent; He was being patient for their own sake.  It wasn’t deficiency, apathy, or cruelty that caused His delay.

It was mercy, to give people time to accept Jesus Christ as Savior.

Sometimes mercy is “yes” and sometimes mercy is “no.”  Sometimes grace is instant and sometimes it’s waiting and waiting and waiting.

But it is always for our sake.  It is because He loves us that God cares for us the way He does.

Originally published 12/3/2012

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