Accepting this Gift

“Is there anything I can do for you?”

That’s what I ask, but there isn’t anything right now….and that’s hard.

It’s hard to be one so used to serving, doing, and giving now mostly watching as another serves me.9550030_s

This, after all, is a love note I write to my family: one husband, three daughters, now one tiny son.  In lunches packed, laundry washed, games played, songs sung, books read, homework helped, appointments made, chauffeuring done, I say, “I love you.”

But this is his message now to me in these first two weeks of life with a newborn, and it’s beautiful and yet all so overwhelming because part of me rebels and revolts, thinking, “I should be doing this.”

Yet, it’s my husband clearing up the dinner table, washing each dish, and there he is driving three far-too-busy daughters to dance classes three times a week and shuttling children back and forth to school and then from school day after day.

He pushes the cart in the grocery store and carries the baby carrier into the church.  He serves the cereal in the morning and then bounces a restless newborn while I fix ponytails and bows into long blonde hair.

He forgoes sleep so I can sleep.

He’s been serving me all along, all these years of working hard and caring for me in many ways.  But now it’s all-the-time service; it’s middle-of-the-night and throughout the day every day and it’s taking over my jobs and chores in addition to his own normal tasks.

I find it so hard to rest and accept the gift of love…to allow someone else the chance to say:

“I love you” as I wash this dish.

“I love you” as I care for these children.

“I love you” as I sacrifice and as I serve.

It still feels like it should be me giving, not receiving…doing, not resting….loving, not being loved.

Yet, I sit for so much of every day and every night now, cradling a newborn, feeding him, changing him, cooing over him, praying for him, running my hands over his soft skin and kissing his totally kissable cheeks.

And I think….

What if this helpless babe refused my help?

What if, in his need, he declined my acts of love?

He’d be utterly desperate, hungry, filthy.  He’d be completely incapable of thriving.  He could try as he might to function with determined independence, but he’d fail and he’d suffer.

He needs me to love him.

And I need to let others and let Christ love me with this unmerited, unselfish, undemanding grace, as well.

Paul wrote:

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I do not nullify the grace of God” Galatians 2:20-21.

Nullifying grace. How could we do this?

How could we take the amazing grace of God as it pours down all over us and soaks us right through and reject it, make it thoroughly null and void and ineffective in our lives?

Surely it’s by trampling all over this sacrificial gift of God of blessing and forgiveness, salvation and daily mercy, with declarations of our own independence.

It’s refusing the gift and trying instead to earn it.  It’s refusing to receive and demanding instead to be the one doing, serving and giving always.

It’s shaming myself for imperfections and living trapped in self-condemnation instead of accepting the freedom Christ offers.

And really, deep down is the ugly truth, it’s making faith all about me and my performance, and not at all about Him and His sacrifice.

Like Peter, I’m tempted at times to refuse the humility of Christ as He bends low 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.”

Foolish me, how I forget that I need:

Grace

Mercy

Sacrifice

Service

Forgiveness

Without them, I have no part in Christ.

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).

This is what I need to learn…the submitting.

Sometimes, I need to let others give to me when I am needy and when I am weak.

And grace from Christ….that’s not something I need “sometimes.”  It’s grace I need moment by moment, day by day, new every morning.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Heather, Meet Sheep: Part II

She stared at me and I stared back at her.

One woman named Heather…..one sheep named Heather….looking across a farmyard of other creatures and people at one another.015

She was probably thinking about lunch, about the quality of the grass, or the warmth of the day.

You know, sheep things.

I was thinking how appropriate it was to find this woolen sheep named “Heather” at the pumpkin patch.

I needed the reminder, with worries and unknowns, impossibilities, needs, and concerns.  I needed the message that I’m simply a sheep and I need a shepherd.

No, I have a Shepherd, a Good One, One who promises to care for me, to lead me, to bring me to rest, to provide for me, to protect me and even defend me from the attacks of the enemy and my own foolishness.

So, I can be still.  I can stop fretting over what to do and how to do it and just enjoy the grass, the day, the weather, choosing instead to rest and relax and follow along after Jesus.

Seeing our Savior this way, as our Shepherd, promises us so much….

Provision….Rest….Salvation….Deliverance…..Protection…..Love…..Belonging…..Guidance…..

I consider, though, the responsibility.  I’m not only His sheep…I’m a Mama Sheep.  I’ve been entrusted with the care of His lambs, three daughters, one soon-to-be-born son, all looking to this Mama Sheep as she tags along after the Shepherd.

Just like Peter, sitting across a crackling fire on the beach talking with Jesus, I receive this charge: “Feed my lambs”  (John 21:15).

Not just ship them off to church once a week, maybe even twice a week, and hope someone else teaches them the basics about faith, God, and the Bible.  No, that’s my job, and the church is there to partner with me and help me, but never to absolve me of this joy and this responsibility to build into my children’s faith.

In his classic book, Spiritual Parenting, C.H. Spurgeon, teaches me:

First before teaching, you must be fed yourself: The Lord gave him [Peter] a breakfast before giving him a commission. You cannot feed lambs, or sheep either, unless you are fed yourself.

So I start with my own walk, my own growing in the Word, my own prayers, my own time with the Shepherd.

Spurgeon challenges me again:

1. It is careful work. Lambs cannot be fed on anything you please, especially Christ’s lambs. You can soon almost poison your believers with bad teaching. Christ’s lambs are all too apt to eat herbs that are poisonous….Care must be taken in the work of feeding each lamb separately, and the teaching of each child individually the truth that he is able to receive.

2. It is laborious work. With all who teach: they cannot do good without spending themselves… There must be labor if the food is to be wisely placed before the lambs so that they can receive it

3. It is continuous work. Feed my lambs is not for a season, but for all times. Lambs could not live if they were fed once a week. I reckon they will die between Sunday and Sunday. The shepherding of the lambs is daily, hourly work. When is a shepherd’s work over? How many hours a day does he labor? He will tell you that in lambing time, he is never done. He sleeps between times when he can, taking much less than forty winks, then rousing himself for action. It is so with those who feed Christ’s lambs.

It begins to feel so heavy, so overwhelming.

What if I mess up?  Say the wrong thing?  Miss an opportunity?  Sin?  Set a bad example?  Fail to address a character issue?  Fail to point my children to Christ?

Yet, just as my Good Shepherd promises me love, protection, guidance, and care for my needs, He also promises me this:

“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young (Isaiah 40:11)

This unties that one last heavy burden of anxiety and worry off my fluffy sheep shoulders.

God doesn’t just care for me; He cares for my family also.

God leads me, and He does it gently, as I tend to my lambs, the tiny ones He’s entrusted to my care.  Not just that, He scoops up my precious children and holds them close to His very own heart….closer than they can even be to my own beating life-muscle.

They can listen into the heart of the Shepherd, snuggled in close to His chest, kept safe, carried, beloved.

And I can rest knowing that He’ll help me, He’ll teach me, and He’ll show me how to feed these lambs…

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

A Heart At Rest

Too often it’s the insignificant things.

Like the dishes I had to leave unwashed as I unexpectedly rushed out the door…or the items on the to-do list, there because they need to be done, but truly tomorrow might do just as well as today.

It’s the project that sits unfinished, the playroom with evidence of an abandoned toy sorting marathon on display, and the increasingly evident need for a vacuuming.

Too often this is what overwhelms me, the ultimately unimportant and insignificant trifles and I’m tempted for just one selfish moment to say, ‘no.’14157735_s

‘No, I can’t.  No, I’m too busy.  Not today, not tomorrow, not later or in an hour.  No I can’t give this; it’s mine and I need it.  No, you’ll just have to ask someone else.’

While others are needing the hands and feet of Christ right now in this place where they find themselves ….and while God has told this perpetual Martha to abandon the mess in the kitchen and just sit down restfully at His feet or perhaps head out the door to serve another….still I glance incessantly over my shoulder at the kitchen, thinking of what I need to do.

How can my priorities be so awry?

I know it when I’m there… with a friend, on the phone, lingering at church, sharing the cup of tea, holding a crying daughter, baking cookies for another daughter to share with her class, surprising yet another girl in the lunchroom at school and sitting in a noisy cafeteria while she nibbles on her sandwich.

I know this is what matters.  This is what is important.

People are always more important than productivity. 

The dishes will be done.  I’ll stand on the kitchen mat soon enough with my hands soaking into the suds, rinsing cereal bowls and cups. This, too, will be service and love for others, for my family.

Yet, right now what matters is being with God and loving others as He does, not fretting over the remnants of breakfast in my sink.

God challenges my perspective, shifting my viewpoint that is ever so stubbornly focused on my own needs.

He did this for Peter, too, as Jesus explained that He would die and be raised again.

Peter argued with the Savior:  No way, Lord.  That’ll never happen to you!

“Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s” (Matthew 16:23 NLT).

That’s my problem, isn’t it?  My blindness to God’s perspective and the way that selfishness tunnels my vision until all I can see are my needs, my rights, my worries, my struggles, my life with my priorities.

I’m seeing things from a human point of view and never lifting my head high enough to see from God’s eyes.

This, then, is the deeply penetrating truth that challenges me: If I’m being obedient to God and loving others as He has told me to, then I needn’t worry about the peripheral, the secondary and the insignificant. 

He will give me the time.  He will help me. He will take care of what I need.

I can trust Him with it all, with every bit of my worry, my cares, my needs, my agenda.  When I’m serving God in obedience, my stressed out, frazzled, distracted soul can rest in His presence.

That’s what it says in 1 John:

“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence”  (1 John 3:18-19).

Put love-based-on-truth into action and there I find that heart of rest simply because I’m where God is, doing what He’s called me to do, being obedient to His direction and timing.

In What Happens When Women Say Yes to God, Lysa TerKeurst writes:

I must confess I have moments where my heart is at rest in His presence, but they are broken up by pitfalls and pity parties.  Sometimes I just simply want to be selfish.  But when I choose selfishness, I may be happy for the moment, but I’m miserable in the long run (p. 98).

Yes, I have moments when serving comes easy and I feel the peace in obedience.  But I have those other moments when selfishness tempts me to hide away and to hoard my time or resources.

Ironically, it’s only when I’m pouring out to others that God can fill me up with His presence.

It’s only when I cease striving for myself so that I can serve someone else that God meets all my needs, for provision, for rest, for peace, for wisdom, and for time.

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Weekend Rerun: Taste and See

Originally posted February 22, 2012

If you heard the rumblings of the apocalypse at around 6:00 p.m. last Saturday night . . . that was me.

To be more accurate, it emanated from my home after I did something shocking.

I cooked two new recipes for dinner.  Not one experimental dish, but two.  In the same day.  For the same meal.

How did the world not end?

My oldest daughter has been getting better about trying new dishes and tasting before judging.  Even she, though, poked at the baked potato casserole with her fork like it was an animal on the side of the road and she didn’t know if it was dead or not.

“This looks gross.”  (It didn’t).

“It smells gross.”  (It didn’t.)

“I don’t like it.”

In true mom fashion, I answered, “How do you know if you haven’t tried it?”

I knew better than to serve up the potato side dish to my middle girl who never ceases to yell out, “I HATE potatoes” any time a spud threatens to come near the dinner table.  It’s as if after almost six years with the child I still need the constant reminder that potatoes on her plate cause the allergic reaction of a total meltdown.

Instead, I served up the barbecued chicken I’d made in my Crock Pot.  “I don’t like chicken.”  (She does).  “I don’t like barbecue.”  (She does.)

Eventually, I held up the tiniest shred of chicken on a fork and instead of biting it, she flicked out her tongue like a snake and licked the edge.  Then she grimaced and, in order to be truly dramatic, she actually shivered a little like it sent chills down her spine.

Because obviously that one drive-by licking was enough to judge the meal’s quality.

After the initial posturing of resistance, finally we ate and by the end of the meal, we decided despite the protests, that it was good.

Are you willing to experience God?  To do more than flick out your tongue for a Bible verse or two, a prayer in the night, a few Sundays in a pew, or a feeling of holiness during Lent?

Are you willing to give Him the chance to display His goodness through a season of difficulty and not give up on Him?

The Psalmist, filled with joy in knowing God, urged everyone around him to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).

It’s like he passed around a decadent piece of chocolate cake, so wonderful, so incredibly delicious, he simply couldn’t keep it to himself.

In this Psalm, though, David was encouraging more than just licking a little bit of God off the edge of a sample fork.  That’s the key to his testimony.

He wrote:

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!  Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (Psalm 34:4-8).

Tasting God means seeking the Lord, looking to Him, even when we are full of fears, poor, facing troubles, and in need of deliverance.

We can’t give up, shrug Him off, avoid Him, halfheartedly try Him out, or put Him in a box of limitations and expectations.  We have to let God be God.  Then we’ll see how good He is.

Peter wrote:

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good (1 Peter 2:2-3, NIV). 

Tasting His goodness stirs up our God appetite. The more you read God’s Word, the more you’ll hunger and thirst for His Word.  The more you worship Him, the more you’ll long to worship Him.

Then, knowing how good God is, we just can’t keep Him to ourselves.  Just like the Psalmist, we’ll want to pass around the chocolate cake!  It will be our great testimony, even to skeptics and doubters. “Look what God did for me!  He is so good.  You have to taste and see.”

That’s exactly what Philip said to Nathaniel after discovering Jesus, the man he thought was the long-awaited Messiah.  Philip ran to Nathaniel and exclaimed, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:45).

Nathaniel was dubious and asked the skeptic’s question, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth.”

Philip’s answer was simple: “Come and see” (John 1:46).

If you’ve been refusing to really taste God’s goodness and reluctant to really try a relationship with Him,  please seek Him.

If you’ve sunk your teeth into a relationship with Him and discovered His goodness, don’t push Him aside when difficulties arise.  Allow Him to display His goodness at all times.

If you’ve grown to love the goodness of God in your life, then feed the appetite for His presence and His Word.

Then, pass the cake to another.  Live your life so that others will want to experience a relationship with Him and taste His goodness for themselves.

Recipe Links:

As much as my kids balked at first, these recipes really were delicious and the chicken was super easy to make in my Crock Pot! Here are the links:

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

When a Dent Means So Much More

It looked like nothing more than a dent in the hood of the car, a cosmetic annoyance perhaps, but not worth paying the deductible on the car insurance to fix.

Deer are so frighteningly erratic and unpredictable.  Some people marvel at their beauty, grazing along the roadside.  I, however, slow down to a crawl and pray frantically, my hands white-knuckled ontodeercrossing the steering wheel and my heart racing every time I see them out my car window.

So, I was thankful for the miracle.  The deer slamming into my husband’s car left only this ugly indentation behind and my husband was unharmed: a too-close encounter with the minimal damage.

We thought that was the end of it.

The next day, though, my husband found the passenger door on the car wouldn’t open, not without unusual effort.

One estimate at the body shop later and we found out the truth.  The deer had caused $1500 worth of damage, most of it underneath the car.  It took a week of repairs to fix the damage from what the insurance company termed a “collision with an animal.”

It’s been more than a month since the deer decided to take a running leap into my husband’s car and I’ve been thinking about it all the while.

….About brokenness and how sometimes we think the surface cracks and minor bumps and dents are all there is.  Yet, that brokenness in me …in you….in those we meet out and about in our lives…reaches deep down.

It’s not just a matter of cosmetic imperfections, dents that can be popped back out or scratches that can be covered over with paint.  When I explode in anger over something or react with a bad attitude, when the slightest hint of jealousy arises, or I say the wrong thing—it just seems like the smallest error.  It’s a bad day.  A minor bout of stress.

But that’s just the sign of true brokenness.  One pass through the Refiner’s fire and all the disgusting contaminants rush to the surface.

Something is at work far deeper in my heart and soul and I can either keep covering up and ignoring the surface manifestations, or I can ask God to “search me and know me” in the hidden places, underneath the hood, revealing the kind of brokenness that only an expert can see and only with a thorough examination (Psalm 139:23).

Or sometimes we ignore the dents and treat them with complacent apathy… not realizing that the marriage that just seems humdrum is really in desperate danger….or the strained relationship that appears mildly tense is truly explosive.  We’re ignoring the signs of brokenness until they’ve reached a devastating magnitude and then when we’re sitting among the rubble and dust, we think, “What happened?  How did I not know?”

So, while it’s painfully annoying to see the surface signs of damage, how much better to ask God to be at work in us, be at work in our marriages and homes, hearts and minds, ministries and jobs, and more, here and now and do the hard work in this very moment.

Then, like Peter wrote, “and the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10 NIV). 

Peter knew this.  He had a faith that seemed so loud and boisterous, so absolutely strong, and yet he denied Christ three times and discovered out how deep the broken places ran in his soul.

This same Peter tells us that strength and steadfastness, the wholeness and healing, only come after the suffering.  If we skip over it, gloss over it, ignore it, or pretend it isn’t there, then we’ll be too fragile to withstand the greater stress.

…And I’ve been thinking about how we can seem to have it all together with everything perfect and perfectly in place and still be so broken underneath the surface.  There is, after all, no such thing as perfection this side of Christ’s throne.

So it’s safe for all of us to just confess the truth already.  Yes, there’s brokenness in me.  There.  I’ve said it.

And maybe, just maybe, if we all showed that grace to ourselves and that grace for others, we’d allow God to do the healing work.  Then He’d get so much glory—not because we’re faking perfect, but because we’re redeemed by a God who can transform the most broken vessels into clay pots fit for use in the Kingdom.

In her book Sudden Glory, Sharon Jaynes writes, “The puncture wounds of life’s canvas become see through places for Sudden Glory moments.”

Yes, it’s the broken places in us that can let His glory shine through.  But only if we stop resisting His work.  Only if we stop patching the holes.  Only if we pay attention to the scratches and dents and let Him go to work on the hidden brokenness.  That’s when true healing begins.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Storytelling

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

That morning I had dashed out in the cold 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.

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 my middle girl’s preschool program when she wore this green dress….
…and the wedding that my oldest daughter had worn this to….
….and the birthday I had given this outfit to her….
…and how Grammy made the older girls these sweaters with the special buttons and they had worn them to the parade on Main Street.

Sorting these clothes is like flipping through the pages of a photo album and I find myself telling the stories to my daughters and to my husband as I fold them or pull out the hangers.

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.sewing-button

I think about it as I sit stretched out on the floor of my living room, sewing a button onto a shirt.  My preschooler fingers the buttons in the tin, choosing the one she likes and counting them.

There I sit telling a story again about visiting my great-grandmother’s house when I was a girl and how she was a seamstress, so I played with her leftover buttons all collected into metal tins and how I stacked her empty spools into towers.

I realize: 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.

But later I wonder: What stories will they tell about me?

I think of Tabitha in Scripture, 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 think of this as I stand in front of my own piles of clothes and remember the 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 the stories we told our children.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

How is a Christian like an Oompa Loompa?

The curtain rose and fell for the last time.  The makeup went on and the makeup came off (mostly–there are still streaks of orange along my daughter’s hairline).  Costumes were handed in and tucked away for future shows. A crew of folks broke down the set and put the pieces into storage.

My kids finished their summer-long project yesterday, an all-youth production of Willy Wonka Jr. sponsored by our local community theater group.  They auditioned the Sunday after school ended, rehearsed every week, and performed this weekend.

Now it’s time to kick back and enjoy a few weeks of rehearsal-free summer before school starts again.

Each night before the show, we arrived two hours early so the kids could climb into costumes and sit still for makeup.  This was a particularly involved process because my middle girl was an Oompa Loompa.

The Oompa Loompas are Willy Wonka’s devoted candy factory workers.  Refugees from a horrible land, they’ve come to live and work in his factory as loyal servants of their eccentric chocolate-making master.

Transforming into an Oompa Loompa is quite a task.  It’s more than just colorful shirts, socks and some overalls with curiously expansive hips.

There’s also a bright green wig covered in curls.

And there’s orange makeup–bright orange.

For these six through nine-year-olds, this was a matter of acting, putting on the outward appearance of another.

In the tradition of Lewis Carroll-like riddles, though, I’ve been wondering: How is a Christian like an Oompa Loompa? (Yes, I know Lewis Carroll wrote Alice in Wonderland, not Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  What can I say?  I’ve got children’s fantasy on the brain . . . )

Peter wrote this description to the church:

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9 NLT).

The Oompa Loompas are peculiar.  They are “strange creatures,” unmistakably different from the kids and parents who visit Willy Wonka’s factory.

We also are supposed to be “not like that,” not like the world, not able to blend in with the crowd. God has changed us from the inside-out and people should notice the unique qualities of God’s love and righteousness about us.

I never once saw an Oompa Loompa hit the gym for an exercise routine targeted at reducing his hip-size.  They didn’t climb onto stilts to increase their height.  None of them hid in the bathroom for an hour to dye their hair and they didn’t even try to pass their orange skin off as suntan.

They were comfortable being weird.

Sometimes we’re not.  We’re too often trying to hide, transform, pretend, and deny the presence of Christ in us.

There’s freedom, though, in unashamedly being who God called us to be, in raising our hands in worship with abandon, in standing up for what is right with conviction, and not fearing the disapproving looks of those around us.

We’re supposed to be weird, too.

The Oompa Loompas were also refugees.  Willy Wonka had pulled them out of a land of fear and disaster and offered them a place of peace.

We’ve similarly been lifted up out of pits and carried to safety.  We are God’s “chosen people” and His “very own possession,” who no longer inhabit a hopeless world, facing inevitable death without the promise of a future.  He has “called us out of the darkness into his wonderful light.”

So, we respond as the Oompa Loompas did; we cheerfully and faithfully serve our Master.

He has saved us!  We are rescued and redeemed!

It’s a little thing, then, to show gratitude and loyalty and to obey Him in every little thing.  We work, we love, we give, we minister, we sacrifice, we share, we worship because we are refugees brought to safety by a Savior who loves us.

The Oompa Loompas are also message-bearers.  As each Golden Ticket winner inevitably fails, falling to the temptations of  immediate satisfaction, selfishness, and greed, the Oompa Loompas take the stage. They clean up the mess.  They solve the problem.

They sing their song.

We also “show others the goodness of God,” sometimes by fixing problems and tending to needs, silently ministering grace.

Sometimes we “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), reminding others that God has a plan, purpose, and design.  We speak truth and wisdom in a world that desperately needs both, but we do it with love, covered over with grace, never out of judgment or pompous self-righteousness.

The Christian life is a call to be different, to be saved, to be devoted, to be messengers of God’s goodness, all without having to wear a green wig or apply orange makeup.

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

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Weekend Walk, 07/07/2012: When It’s H-O-T

Hiding the Word:

Ask anyone in my town, in my state, along my coastline.  It’s hot.

H-O-T.  Hot.

It’s the subject of everyone’s Facebook posts. What’s my status?  Sweltering, melting, sweaty, sticky.  Hot.

The weather monopolizes our conversation, dominating our small talk.  How are you doing?  And then we look, really look at the person and realize there’s no need to even ask.  They’re wiping their hand across their forehead, pushing away sticky strands of hair and catching droplets of sweat before they drip in our eyes.

And it’s all we can think about.  Forget how we’re feeling or how our jobs are going or how our kids are enjoying their summer.  All we know right now is that we’re just too plain hot.

But this morning I sat by the side of the local swimming pool while my daughters took swimming lessons.  Parents on benches against the wall fanned themselves, but the kids were dipped in coolness. They were comfortable, happy, relaxed and refreshed.

Even when they stepped out into the heat, my dripping wet girls were still cool from their time in the water.

Watching my daughters so refreshed despite the heat around them, I saw a reminder of God’s satisfying grace, His presence and the cooling comfort of His Word amidst the heat of our lives–the stress, the busyness, the fires of attack. He’s the Living Water, from which we drink deep and long, enjoying the true quenching of our up-to-now insatiable thirst.

In his famous sermon, Peter promised the crowd that “times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:20). We throw ourselves (belly-flopping or diving or jumping into a cannonball) into God and, totally immersed in His presence, we are refreshed and renewed.

So, this week, I’m meditating on a verse that reminds me that Christ is in me, my source of joy and hope and peace regardless of the heat of life:

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38 ESV).

Weekend Rerun:

His Sufficiency
Originally posted on May 2, 2011

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 2:9

I love sharing in this devotional ministry with you, hearing what God is teaching you and how it connects up with the verses and thoughts on my heart.  Journeying together with you these past few months has been a blessing to me.  But, To be honest, there are still some days I struggle with knowing what God has called me to do right here and now in my life.  Insecurities can do that to us, trap us in a pit of questions and uncertainty and prevent us from moving forward in obedience.

You see a great deal of the time I feel ill-equipped to sit across the computer from you and share from my quiet time moments.  I’m no bestselling author, conference speaker, or Greek scholar.  This is just simple me being real with you, a girl totally in love with God’s Word and how alive it is, how relevant for our lives, how powerful to change our hearts and minds.  These are the confessions of my heart, but maybe you’ve felt some of these insecurities in your life, too.

Have you ever felt a little insufficient?  A little overwhelmed by the task God’s given you and a little underwhelmed by your ability to perform it?  A little intimidated by the confident ministry of those around you?

Today, I’m thinking about insufficiency, mostly because that’s how I feel at this moment.  I’m sitting at my kitchen table after a hectic morning of running errands, forgetting something at the store, heading back to another store, returning all the library books and then finding one more book hidden in the car after I got home, and finally running late to pick up my daughter from school.

My youngest girl dug into the Easter candy that mysteriously moved from the inaccessible high counter where I had put it onto the very accessible  floor. (Do “Not Me” and “I Don’t Know” live at your house, too?)  There are candy wrappers dotted across the carpet.  Fortunately, she doesn’t actually like to eat the candy; she just enjoys unwrapping it, so next to the candy wrappers is the chocolate all lined up in a perfectly straight row.  (That chocolate is still good, right?  Because I totally just ate some.)

The laundry is spinning in the washer and dryer and the clean clothes are piling up on the sofa all fresh and warm and in desperate need of folding and putting away.

Meanwhile, I have not yet exercised this morning, but I am excusing myself because I’ve been coughing up my lungs themselves for the last few days.

So, sick, stressed, tired, forgetful, surrounded by mess, and feeling bad for not exercising, I have waved the white flag and retreated to the kitchen table for some time with God.  And I need it because I’m so insufficient for all this.

Fortunately for me, my favorite Gospel event is all about insufficiency!  Jesus had been teaching a crowd of people all day and healing the sick among them.

By the time evening came, the disciples were worried.  They told Jesus, “’This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.’  Jesus replied, ‘They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.’”  Matthew 14:13-14 (NIV). 

The disciples certainly didn’t have enough food for a crowd of over 5000 people, but Andrew did find one little boy with a small lunch: “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” John 6:9 (NIV).

“How far will they go” indeed?!  This boy’s lunch was utterly insufficient.  It probably embarrassed Andrew to even mention it.  Yet, this little boy with a lunchbox willingly and in great faith gave 100% of what he had to Jesus.  Even though it was insufficient, he trusted that Jesus could use his offering.

Certainly, this boy could have worked in his own strength to catch some more fish or bake some more bread.  He could have collected small change from everyone in the crowd and trekked into town to order take-out.

Still, despite his best efforts and hard work, he would never have provided enough in his own strength.  Likewise, I can’t be enough in my own strength either. If I’m relying on my talent, skills, hard work, and ingenuity, I’ll just fail.  I can only give my all to Jesus and trust that He will multiply my offering.

Besides, it was the insufficiency of the boy’s gift that allowed Jesus to be glorified.  If that boy had somehow gathered enough food for the crowd, the story would have been about his ingenuity and generosity instead of Jesus’ compassion and miraculous power.

Even if every attendee had packed a little snack and the disciples had pooled the resources to form a buffet line, Christ would then be a master organizer or administrator—not a God of compassion who sees our need and provides for us in abundance through His great power. 

Our insufficient offerings give Jesus the opportunity to be glorified.

God never expects us to be sufficient in our strength and abilities.  If we are strong enough, together enough, talented enough, smart enough, or equipped enough in our own strength, there’s no room for God to show off in our lives and receive the glory He deserves.   The gifts we bring just become less about Him and more about us.  

And let me assure you that God is powerful in our weakness.  Sure, my day has been crazy and I don’t feel up to the task of managing it all, but after some time with God’s Word and some moments spent sharing with you, I can look around with new eyes and see Him at work. 

My beautiful girls have just bounced through the kitchen after playing outside on a bright and sunny day.  They were chased in by an “enormous, gigantic, ugly black spider” and now they are cuddling together all stretched out and relaxing, little blond curls and wisps of hair falling out of ponytail holders and hair clips.  My baby girl fell asleep peacefully for a nap, tired from all of her effort spent unwrapping chocolate and the house is quiet for these few moments.  A candle is burning.  The last load of laundry is spinning away.   One of the caterpillars we’ve been studying just emerged from her chrysalis and is waving her new wings back and forth, testing them out, feeling the weight of them. 

God is always sufficient in our insufficiency.

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

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Weekend Walk, 03/31/2012

Hiding the Word:

It’s the first full day of Spring Break for us and my kids were up early.  My oldest daughter announced that one of her friends plans to “sleep all day” for spring break.  “How boring!” she said.

My kids plan to pack in as much activity as possible.

So, it wasn’t even 8 a.m. yet when one of my girls was inspired to start singing.  She pulled out a travel CD of Bible songs that Grammy gave them a few Christmases ago and popped it into the CD player in her bedroom.  I started hearing the chorus of “Deep and Wide” emanate through the house . . . loudly.  This daughter of mine always sings with passion.

Inspired, my baby girl ran into the playroom and pulled out the entire plastic drum of instruments.  The harmonica was humming, the cymbals crashing, the sleigh bells jingling, the clackers clacking, the triangle jingling.  Yes, even the kazoo was buzzing.

It was an early morning symphony of praise in my tiny house and it may have sounded like pots and pans at times down here.  To God, though, it’s spontaneity and passion must have sounded beautiful.

We are preparing to enter the Passion Week, the time when we remember Good Friday when Christ died for us and Resurrection Day when He conquered death and the grave.  When Jesus entered Jerusalem for that final week, the people filled the air with waving palm branches and shouted, Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:13).

They shouted praise to Him because of false expectations and misplaced excitement.  They didn’t praise Him for being a Savior, for laying down His own life to provide redemption for their sins.

No, they hailed Him as a conqueror, rebel, and over-thrower of the earthly kingdoms.  When they realized that’s not what He was doing, they mostly abandoned Him. The palm branches stopped waving.  The people stopped shouting “Hosanna” and started shouting “Crucify Him.”

My praise can be tainted by misplaced expectations also.

So, this week, I am meditating on a verse that reminds me to praise God when He behaves the way I expect and when He doesn’t.  It’s my hope to sing praise to God with the passionate simplicity of children crooning with their Bible songs CD and clanging together toy instruments.

It seems appropriate to prepare for the Passion Week with praise:

I will bless the Lord at all times;
    his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
    let the humble hear and be glad.
 Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
    and let us exalt his name together!  (Psalm 34:1-3 ESV)

Weekend Rerun:

Am I the One, Lord?
Originally posted on April 5, 2011

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.”  2 Cor. 13:15

Twelve disciples, one Savior, reclined and relaxed, celebrating Passover together in an Upper Room.  Thirteen share in a meal of remembrance that they would always remember and that we continue to remember.   The Last Supper.  Communion.  “Do this in remembrance of me.”

Together they have eaten and laughed, declared “For His mercy endures forever” and sung hymns in worship.  They are jovial, anticipatory, expecting Christ’s triumph in Jerusalem.

Jesus leans in, “While they were eating, he said, ‘I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me’ (Matthew 26:21, NLT).

Silence.  Stillness.  Seriousness.

If Jesus said this at the end of a church service today and the pianist played the quiet first notes of the closing hymn, many of us would be nudging our neighbor or making concerted efforts NOT to stare at the person across the room.  (Or, perhaps, making lunch plans and quieting the rumbles in our stomachs.)  It’s you, it’s you, it’s you—we might think.  That sermon is for you!  That heaviness of the Holy Spirit—it’s for you!  I’ve seen your sin.   I know your need to repent.

And yet, 12 disciples, “greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, ‘Am I the one, Lord?’” (Matthew 26:22, NLT).

Am I the one, Lord?

This seeking is our salvation.  We ask the dangerous question and we allow the Holy Spirit to turn over our hearts and reveal our own true need to be at the altar and lay it down.  Or the Holy Spirit searches, finds purity of heart, and invites us to pray for those around us still struggling.

It’s our complacency and satisfaction with our spiritual dwelling place that leads to our downfall.  It’s when we stake our claim to land and decide we’ve traveled enough in this road to Christ that we edge our way to danger.  I’m pure enough.  Good enough.  I’m not lukewarm.  I’ve conquered the “big” sins.  I read my Bible.  I pray.  I’m close to God.  I have a strong ministry.

I’m good.  Right here, in this place, I’m good here.

But this journey to Christ is ongoing.  As long as we are alive on this planet, we are imperfect creatures in need of an ever-closer intimacy with our Savior.

This moving to Christ requires moving away from something else.  It’s a necessity of the road.   In order to go forward, we must leave something behind.

That was true for Israel.  God called them to Canaan when He beckoned Abram out of Mesopotamia and its many gods and idols.  God called them back to the Promised Land when He led them out of Egypt and they left slavery for freedom.

They walked towards promise, but it involved rejection—rejecting the old definition of “normal.”  It was “normal” for those in Abram’s home town to pray to statues and worship bits of stone and wood.  It was “normal” in Egypt for male babies to be slaughtered simply for population control.

It’s “normal” for us to be too busy for God, to lose it with our kids, to be selfish, to feel jealousy, to cheat, to lie, to overindulge , to worry, to rebel, to gossip. . .  We think these sins are acceptable because everyone does them and no one can be perfect.

Yet, God calls us out of “normal” and into radical.  He doesn’t ask us the hard questions to shame us or humiliate us.  He does it to draw us close to Him so that we are “being transformed . . .from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NKJV).

Eugene Peterson wrote, “Repentance, the first word in Christian immigration, sets us on the way to traveling in the light.  It is a rejection that is also an acceptance, a leaving that develops into an arriving, a no to the world that is a yes to God.”

Peter sat at that Passover table and asked the dangerous question, “Am I the one, Lord?”  He allowed the searching of his heart.  It wasn’t him.  Eleven of those at the table endured their souls being turned over and could say that they were innocent of this betrayal.

Yet, then they stopped asking.  That’s our weakness, too.   When we stop asking the Holy Spirit to search us, when we become complacent and self-assured, it’s when we will betray.

Like Peter.  Jesus predicted Peter would deny Him.  “Peter answered and said to Him, ‘Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.’  Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crowd, you will deny Me three times.’  Peter said to Him, ‘Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!’  And so said all the disciples” (Matthew 26:33-35, NKJV).

But, he was wrong.  Jesus arrested.  Jesus taken away in chains.  Jesus bullied, beaten, spat on, and mocked.  Peter in the courtyard answering the questioning accusations of others by the fire.  “I never knew the fellow.  I wasn’t one of his disciples.  I didn’t follow Him.”

He stumbled into betrayal because he was complacent.  Peter thought he knew what was in his heart, that he was right with God and strong in his faith.  So, he stopped asking, “Am I the one, Lord?” and started saying, “Not I.”

And so we must ask and keep on asking, “Search my heart, search my soul.  There is nothing else that I want more.  Shine Your light and show Your face.  In my life, Lord, have Your way, have Your way” (Hillsong United).

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

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

There’ll Be A Scar

The doctor said there will be a scar.

I stood over my two-year-old as she laid on the hospital bed in the emergency room, cradling her hand in mine and gently stroking her blood-soaked hair.

More than two hours before, she had been tucked in her bed when she felt inspired to climb into the crib on her own.  We heard the thud and then her cry.  Then we heard the cries of the older girls who were certain they “saw her brains coming out” and were afraid “she was going to die.”

My husband and I scooped up my baby girl, threw on her jacket and snatched up her shoes.  Pressing a rag to her head to cover the gash and to stop the bleeding, my husband snuggled her close as he carried her to the van for our ride to the emergency room.

And I prayed.

Sometimes when you’re in that place of adrenaline and potential bad news, fear, and love for your child, you can’t pray much more than the name of Jesus.  I’m thankful that’s enough.

In the emergency room we waited . . . and waited . . . and waited some more.  By a true miracle, my two-year-old played happily for two-and-a-half hours without one single tear, entertained only by the items I happened to have in my purse.  Two crayons.  Three miniature My Little Ponies.  Two children’s books.  A sheet of stickers.

When we saw the doctor, I confessed that I’d never had a child receive stitches for anything.  So, he cleaned out the gash in her forehead, probed it and kind of hmmmed and sighed for a few minutes.  Then he announced, “There’ll be a scar no matter what.  But in order to avoid a needle and anesthetic for her and to keep you from passing out, let’s try glue instead of stitches.”

That sounded good to me.

When I told her the story, my friend said, “Who doesn’t have a scar with a story from their childhood??”

I’ve been thinking about this all week, every time I peek under the Band-Aid and examine the line of dark red across my baby’s face.  Don’t we all have scars?  Not just from childhood, but we bear the wounds of hurtful words from a supposed friend, the betrayal of someone who said they loved you, the embarrassments from long ago, and the pain over last week’s mistake.

Jesus chose, following His resurrection, to keep His scars.  He was healed and restored to life, but when He extended His hands, the palms still bore the signs of what He did for us.  This didn’t just give a basis for the disciples’ faith, but “Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side” (John 20:19-20). 

His scars are our source of peace.  His hands upturned remind us that our healing, our forgiveness, our deliverance, our freedom, our redemption, our eternity are all part of the peace He gave us through His sacrifice.

Isaiah tells us:

“But he was pierced for our transgressions,
   he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
   and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

Jesus’ scars are a reminder of what He has done and that gives us peace.

Our scars can do the same.  Oh, I don’t mean we cling to burdens, shame, guilt, hurts, and fears, refusing to lay them down at the cross and remaining forever imprisoned by the stories of our past.

Scripture is clear.

God forgives us.
“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).

God heals our broken hearts.
“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” (Isaiah 61:1)

God sets us free.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1)

God doesn’t hold our past against us.
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1)

We are washed clean, made new, redeemed and set free because of the scars Christ bore on our behalf.

Yet, the experiences that He brought us through, all of the times He carried us, and the moments when we stumbled, aren’t times we completely forget.  They are, instead, seasons of transformation in our lives.  He uses each trial and mistake to change our hearts and draw us closer to Him.

The scars we bear from those times of difficulty and growth are our testimony to others.  We can point to our own scabs and gashes and say, “Look what God has done in me.  He brought me through this.”  We are walking reminders of His mercy, standing testaments to His grace, and an ever-present sign of His peace among the hurting, the broken, and the oppressed.

And it’s not despite our scars; it’s because of them.  That’s why Peter, after experiencing the pain of rejecting Christ, became the apostle who argued so passionately for humility.

That’s why Paul, knowing that he had been a murderer and a persecutor of Christians in the past, became the apostle best known for defending grace.

Their scars became part of their testimony and pointed to Christ.

Years ago, I stumbled upon what became one of my favorite songs, Point of Grace’s Heal the Wound.  I hope it blesses you as it did me!

You can click on the video from the blog in order to listen or follow the link here: http://youtu.be/KjnCxvH4Q3w

You can read more devotionals on this topic here:

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