Weekend Rerun: Peppermint in the Spring

Originally published March 14, 2012

Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!  (Psalm 141:2)

I bought it on a whim and I’m so glad I did.

Years ago, I was filling my garden with herbs.  I bought the tiniest pots of rosemary, lavender, sage, thyme, oregano, basil, parsley and chives for $2 each and just hoped they’d grow larger over time.

Then, as I left the garden center one day I walked by another table of herbs.  I thought there’d be nothing among those leaves to entice me—now the proud owner of herbs I knew how to cook with and some I didn’t.

I almost passed by without even looking, but as I did a breeze blew through and I caught the hint of the most heavenly scent ever.

It was a tiny pot of peppermint.

I fell in love.

Over the years, some of those miniature $2 herb plants have overtaken my garden.  The rosemary has invaded the entire back left corner.  I keep cutting it back and still it grows undeterred.

The basil last year towered over my six-year-old daughter and made me crave Italian food every time I climbed the steps to my back door.

Then there’s the peppermint.  It quickly spread and overtook every available space in the right corner of my garden plot.

Now, as I sit here typing away next to an open window, I can smell the scent of fresh peppermint even with the gentlest breeze.

I’m pretty sure heaven smells like peppermint.  And if the aroma of heaven is sweeter than that, it’s aromatherapy at its greatest.

There’s no “if” about it, though.  We know for sure that God has His own brand of Scentsy and His own favorite aroma.

And believe it or not, it’s sweeter than fresh peppermint dancing in a spring breeze.

The Bible tells us that in heaven there are “golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (Revelation 5:8) and that:

“Another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel” (Revelation 8:3-4).

Our prayers are being mixed with incense and wafted before God’s throne all the time.  It’s the cries of our heart and the pleas for grace, the humble praising of His name, and the intercession on behalf of others that fills the throne room.

They are a continual offering to God, a sweet-smelling sacrifice that brings God joy.

This, then, is truly my heart’s desire.  I want to smell nice for God.

Sound foolish?  Perhaps it seems silly at first.

And yet, what I really mean to say is that I want to be pleasing to Him.  I don’t want to be the foul odor among the incense of the saints’ prayers. I don’t want to be the one lone stench among the sacrifices offered up to my God.

I want Him to receive my prayers with pleasure and to take joy in the life I offer to Him, in the planned prayer times spoken at my table, in the heartfelt cries I send up to heaven without premeditation, and in the thousands of conversations and the running dialogue I carry on with Him every day, all day.

This isn’t a mystery, either.  We aren’t left to guess what life-scents God enjoys and which of those He finds distasteful and nauseating.

In Exodus and Leviticus we read that the sacrifices burnt on the altar before God could be a “pleasing aroma” to Him (Exodus 29:18, Exodus 29:25, Exodus 29:41, Leviticus 1:9, Leviticus 1:13 . . . ).

When offered with obedience, these burnt offerings brought God pleasure.

Yet, God told the Israelites “if in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me . . . I will lay your cities waste and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your pleasing aromas” (Leviticus 26:27, 31).

Lives of disobedience and idolatry became the stench of garbage and death before God.  He held His nose at their offerings and didn’t receive their sacrifices.

So when you choose to obey Him, even when it doesn’t make sense and doesn’t fit into your five-year-plan, you are spraying on the perfume of the God-life.

When you pray with humility, when you commune with Him continually, and when you offer up praise, your prayers drift through heaven like peppermint on a breeze and like the candles making my living room smell like honeysuckle on a summer’s eve and my bedroom like gardenias in bloom (my favorites!).

This has become my prayer for today and the days ahead, that the life I lay on the altar before God, the offering up of my actions, my words, my thoughts, and the hidden motives of my heart, will be acceptable to Him.  And that the prayers I place at the feet of His throne are a pleasing aroma of incense to my God.

With David, we pray:

Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!  (Psalm 141:2)

and

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14)

Amen.

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 November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

A Matter of Opinion

I looked ridiculous.

Standing on my deck in sopping wet, raggedy clothes, barefoot with no makeup and my hair still not fully dry from my shower, I sprayed down a bunch of blankets and clothes with my garden hose.

There I stood, essentially watering my laundry.

Of course, I had a reason for this apparent foolishness.  It was laundry and cleaning day (so who dresses nicely and fixes their hair and makeup for that?)  Part way through the morning, it occurred to me that my laundry was taking an unusually long time in the washing machine.

As in, it was just cycling round and round without ever draining the water and spinning the clothes.

So, I pulled every last piece of laundry out and hauled it to the deck.  Water pooled all over my floor, soaking my socks and shoes, so I stripped them off and plopped them by the back door.  After I had yanked out every last blanket and sock, I bailed out the washing machine by hand, first in buckets and eventually with a tiny plastic cup.

Feeling like I had at least rescued my clothes, it then occurred to me that everything I had placed out in the sun to dry had been immersed in soapy detergent water all morning.  So, before it all dried, I needed to rinse it clean.

With the hose.

Of course.

What else to do . . . drag it all back in the house, flooding every room in the process, so that I could rinse everything out in the shower only to haul it all back outside?

So, I improvised.

After a minute or two of standing there with the hose spraying water on my laundry, I glanced down at myself.  I felt like a sponge that could have been wrung out and probably didn’t look much better.

Then it occurred to me how embarrassing it would be if someone saw me out there, looking ragged and wet and watering my laundry instead of my veggies and flowers.

But then I shrugged it off because it didn’t really matter what anyone thought of me.  The fact was that I had done what needed to be done.

And isn’t that the important thing?  .

Unfortunately, not to me, not all the time.  It’s not so simple for me to shrug off the opinions of others.  I so easily become a marionette in their hands, moving, acting, doing . . . every time they yank a string and make a request. When they criticize, I change.

Yes, I could be a charter member of People Pleasers Anonymous.

The opinion of others becomes god to me, more important than God’s own thoughts about who I am and what He wants me to do.

In the end, though, God’s opinion about us is all that matters.

Throughout the books of 1 and 2 Kings, God tells exactly what He thought about each particular ruler, ultimately determining whether a king was good (like David) or evil (like Ahab).

About Hezekiah, we read: “And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done” (2 Kings 18:3 ESV). 

“In the eyes of the Lord . . . “

The Message says it this way, “In God’s opinion he was a good king; he kept to the standards of his ancestor David (2 Kings 18:3 MSG).

“In God’s opinion . . . “

When we feel the heavy weight of criticism and disapproval from others, when they try to slip into seats of control and force us to move this way or that, then we can stop and ask:

What is God’s opinion about me and what I should do?

Hezekiah was a “good king.”  Abraham was the friend of God (James 2:23). David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). Mary was “beautiful with God’s beauty,
   Beautiful inside and out!” (Luke 1:28 MSG).

The bride in Song of Solomon declares that her brothers ridiculed her and sent her out to the fields to labor.  She begs the king, “Do not gaze at me because I am dark” (Song of Solomon 1:6).  That was the opinion of others.

But the king looks at his love and declares, “You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you” (Song of Solomon 4:7).

And his opinion is what mattered.

It’s God’s thoughts about us that should guide our decisions and help us put one foot solidly down on the ground after another, moving in the confident assurance that we are pleasing to Him.

Surely that’s what I desire.  Don’t you?  I don’t want to make it to heaven and say, “Look at all the people who thought I did a good job and whose requests I followed and whose criticism made me change. I pleased them”

No, I want to please God.

I want to be beautiful inside and out, beautiful with God’s beauty, altogether beautiful for Him.

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.

Father’s Day Surprise . . . or not so much

Last Father’s Day, my daughters and I shopped together for Daddy.  When we arrived home, my middle girl burst into the house, ran over to my husband and announced that we had gotten him a game, but she couldn’t tell him which one it was because it was a gift.

Oh, the suspense.

Then for Christmas, the girls shopped for each other at the church’s Awana store.  At the end of the night before we had even clicked on our seat belts in the minivan, my daughter spilled the news to her big sister:  “I got you a doll!!!!”

“You spoiled the surprise again,” we all complained.

“But I didn’t tell her what color doll,” she explained, as if that was enough to keep her sister on edge until Christmas morning.

We’ve become accustomed to the missing element of surprise on holidays all because my little girl can’t contain her excitement over good news.

A few weeks ago, one of the women in my Bible Study group expressed a similar disappointment in the fact that we can’t surprise God.

And I get that.

There are moments when I wish God would look down and say, “Wow!  Did you see what she just did?” when He sees me serve in a way that brings Him pleasure.

God, all-knowing and all-seeing, though, isn’t surprised by what we do and say.

Yet, even though we can’t surprise Him, we can please Him.  He can delight in us and rejoice over us and even be amazed at the growth in our faith. We can bring him joy.

This is a precious thought to me.  We all know that God loves us because of his character, his faithful commitment to keep his covenant with his people and his unwavering grace that offers salvation to sinners like us.

But there are moments when we may wonder if we can please him as individuals.  Can he delight in us, as Scripture tells us he delighted in David (Psalm 18:19)?  Can we find favor with him, as Mary did (Luke 1:30)?

In her book, Knowing God By Name, Mary Kassian notes that there are two different words for the “love” that God has for us.  The one is “chesed,” which is “firmly rooted in God’s character, loyal, steadfast, unfailing love, kindness and mercy” (p. 38).  This is unfailing covenant love.

Yet there’s another kind of love—“ahab,” which means “to desire, to breathe after, to be inclined toward, to delight in” (p. 38).

We see both kinds of love at work in Jeremiah 31:3:

“I have loved you (ahab) with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness (chesed).

Perhaps it’s true that we can’t surprise God, but clearly He can love us personally and passionately—not just because He made a covenant of loyalty long ago.

In fact, I imagine God, grinning ear to ear at times when he looks down with love and affection and sees our hearts motivated by love and our service to others, untainted by pride and self-glorification.

This is what causes our God to “take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”  (Zephaniah 3:17).

Indeed, it’s not the moments when we’re conscious of our good deeds that make God break out in song over us.  It’s not when we’re in it for accolades or when we are patting ourselves on the back for being such a nice person.

It’s never when we’re thinking, “Wow, I’m such a good Christian.  I’m such a loving person.  I’m so self-sacrificing.”

It’s never, ever about earning salvation or His loyal love by adhering to rules or performing well.  God’s covenant love is constant and dependent on His character, not on our works.

It’s not at all because God needs something from us.

Instead, God is amazed by our faith when we come to Him and admit that He alone can rescue us.  When the centurion, a man of power and authority, petitioned Jesus to heal his servant, Jesus “was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, ‘I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel” (Luke 7:9 NIV).

This is the humility of acknowledging that our own good works or personal strength are not enough; our only hope is in him.

Psalm 147:10-11 similarly tells us that “the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love”

In The Pleasures of God, John Piper explains that “it is because our fear reflects the greatness of his power and our hope reflects the bounty of his grace.  God delights in those responses which mirror his magnificence… When I cry out, ‘God is my only hope, my rock, my refuge!’ I am turning from myself and calling all attention to the boundless resources of God’ (p. 187).

James said this with all his usual bluntness:

“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
‘God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble'” (James 4:6).

God becomes a doting Father and rejoices over us when our hearts are truly humble and we are living lives that are intentional about glorifying Him, not ourselves.  This is when we please Him, maybe not surprise Him–but certainly bring Him joy and delight.

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