Praying it Out on a Hard Day

Worry hits me like a sharp, shallow breathing,  right in the middle  of the Wal-Mart.

There I am, just picking the cereal for the week and mentally running through what we already have at home in the pantry, when I realize my breaths are kind of shallow, kind of pained deep in my stomach.

Maybe it’s not even worry; it’s more just thought after thought piling on over time.

Thinking about the to-do-list items, an upcoming  event, soccer and dance, rehearsals, families around me in need, relationships and friendships and peace, work craziness, and ministry decisions.

I  feel “off.”  Unsettled.  Worn down.  Tangled up.

As I push my cart around the store, I take some deep breaths and pray some quick prayers.

Dear Jesus, for my children….

Dear Jesus, for my own brokenness and sin….

Dear Jesus, for those around me….

Send peace . Be our peace, Lord.

I also chide myself.  How foolish, like a tiny child, stressing over things not worth stressing over, thinking and mulling over decisions that will  just come and work out and happen.

It all piles on in one day, though, my own problems to  sort through and a host of others for people I care about:

A family in need, a friend who is grieving, another awaiting medical test results,.

This is a hard day.  A hard day that is making me tenderhearted.

All that sorrow tumbles me into  a sweet place of just crying with Jesus.  I think maybe He weeps, too, just as He did when He stood outside of Lazarus’s tomb and saw how hard it is for all of us, how scared we are, how we mourn.

For a little while, I feel guilty for letting the smallest things in my own life land on my wimpy shoulders  like heavy burdens.

I think, “Count your blessings!  Buck up!  Get over it already!”

And, maybe that’s a little right. Maybe my perspective is off and I needed a little spirit-check, that what has me personally weighed down is foolishness compared to the deep concerns of others.

But I read this also, right in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus says:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? ( Matthew 6:25 ESV)

We’re no different than the crowd of people surrounding him on a mountainside that day.

We feel anxious over the daily things that pound at us.  The food we eat.  The clothes we wear.  The bodies we walk around in. The tiniest mundane details of our everyday life.

Jesus didn’t say, “Don’t be anxious about your cancer diagnosis or don’t be anxious about a divorce or a foreclosure.”

He said don’t worry about any of it.  Don’t worry about lunch and dinner and your outfit for the day and your body type.

And he was so gracious about it.   He didn’t tell  the crowd to get over petty concerns because He was actually going to–you know–be persecuted and die for them because they were, after  all, heading for  eternal  damnation.

Hannah Anderson writes:

“Jesus understood …that small things can unsettle us more than large things; so when He called  the people of Galilee to leave their anxiety–when He calls us to  do the same–He does so in context of very mundane, very ordinary concerns…  At the same time, He doesn’t shame us for worrying about them.  He doesn’t tell us just how to be grateful, to remember how much better we have it than other people…..Instead, He asks if our worry is actually accomplishing anything” (Humble Roots).

It’s not, of course.  Worry isn’t accomplishing  anything for anybody.

But it is a prompting to prayer.  It’s the catalyst that stops me from just standing nearby as a helpless bystander and instead rolling up my sleeves to get in the fight.

I can’t fix this.  Not any of it.  But I can pray.

I can pray it out.  Pray it like that’s our only hope because that’s exactly who Jesus is:  He’s our Hope and our Strength and our Peace and He is who we need when we’re worrying over our children and He is who we need when our friends are facing down death and despair.

So  as I stand there in the middle of the Wal-Mart and then in my minivan and then in my home, I begin to pray it out to Jesus.

Originally published 10/2017

The First Thing I Want You To Do

1-timothy-2

My girl clambered into the minivan after school, heavy backpack on her shoulders, heavy thoughts in her heart.

She waited for my daily question, “How was your day?”

And then she spilled the news about “this boy in my class.”

“This boy” was loud and disruptive and didn’t follow the rules.  He cost them rewards in art class and never obeyed the teacher.  He did inappropriate things and wouldn’t stay in line.

She finished her story, pronounced a loud “harumph” and slammed her arms criss-cross around her chest in a sign of definitive anger.

So many of our conversations take place this way, me angling the rear-view mirror to see faces, shouting back Mom-ly words of wisdom from the driver’s seat.

The minivan is prime time for deep conversations.

“You know what we need to do,” I hollered to the back seat.  “We need to pray for him and for your teacher.”

I expected her to shrug off my advice as impractical and unhelpful, no immediate solution and no personal satisfaction guaranteed.

But she didn’t.

I watched as her eyes brightened and as she lifted her face so her eyes met mine in the mirror.  She nodded in wholehearted agreement.

Later, snuggled together on our overstuffed blue couch, I prayed for “this boy” and for their teacher and when I was through, this child of mine–who finds kisses too embarrassing and declines to even hug much of the time–tossed her arms without reservation.

We parents, grandparents, teachers and leaders show our children how to pray.  We begin with bowed heads over scraped knees and boo-boos on fingers.

We seek forgiveness for wrongs and take difficult situations to God.

And then we begin to pray for others, turning their hearts outward in ministry and compassion.

But it all begins with us, modeling the habit and discipline of “take it to the Lord in prayer.”  It’s bringing Jesus right there into the center of our everyday.

As Paul wrote,

“The first thing I want you to do is pray.  Pray every way you know how for everyone you know” (1 Timothy 2:1 MSG).

The first thing we do is drop to our knees, not after consultations, Google-searches, strategies, all-night worrying sessions, and Facebook posts.  Pray first.

Perhaps God had been preparing me for that moment in the car because I’d been on my knees consistently for weeks over my girl.

Please God show me how to be the Mom she needs me to be, how to encourage her, love her, shepherd her heart, discipline her, and protect her.

In life and in parenting, we can read books, seek counsel, collect advice, listen to sermons, and Google search to our hearts content.

All that might be helpful and good, but what we need to do first and what we need to do most is pray.

 

Maybe God draws us to pray for our kids so that they’ll see us and learn how to bring His presence into the midst of all situations.  They’ll see our faith practiced in the everyday situations and learn to talk about life and God—-not life or God and never the twain shall meet.

Yes, this is more than Sunday morning belief or pew-sitting faith.  This is down and dirty life with God at our side, available to help us in every situation, to give us wisdom, strengthen our hearts, teach us to obey and discipline our desires.

We pray for our children because we love them and want the best for them.

But we also pray for them so that they learn to pray…so that when they encounter “this boy,” they know they can carry his case to God.

And when their friend is hurt by teasing, they’ll give a hug, say a kind word, and petition God on her behalf.

When they don’t know what to do, they whisper to God a request for help and follow His lead.

When life is hard, when situations are uncertain, when they feel afraid, when a friend loses a mom or they see someone with cancer, our kids need to know exactly what to do.  They need to pray.

We pray first, pray about everything, pray every way we can, and pray for everyone we meet.

How to Do the Thing You Don’t Want to Do

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This week, I’m having to do some things I don’t want to do.

Life is like that sometimes.

Eventually, you have to just go to the dentist or get the flu shots for your kids.  No more procrastinating.

You need to make that phone call…have that tough conversation…ask someone for help.

When we’re obeying God and following Him “Anywhere” He calls us to go, it’s sometimes exhilarating. Other days, obedience can be difficult, messy, frightening and overwhelming.

This week, as I do some of the hard things, I consider how Queen Esther did what she didn’t want to do.

When her cousin, Mordecai, asked her to speak to the pagan King about preventing the genocide of the Jewish people, she wrote back to him:

All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days (Esther 4:11).

Still, instead of hiding away in fear, putting off the task, or running away from God (all of which I’m tempted to do at times), Esther chose the hard obedience.

Here’s what we can learn from her:

Pray and ask others to pray

Esther asked the Jews in Persia to fast and pray for her before she finally went before the king.

Her story isn’t one of a lone heroine rising to face an enemy. She … depended on the intercession of her people.  #AnywhereFaith

I pray some specific things when I know God is asking me to do something I don’t want to do:

Please:

  • grant me favor (Proverbs 3:4)
  • give me courage (Isaiah 54:4)
  • bless the work of my hands (Psalm 90:17)
  • make me competent to do things I can’t possibly do on my own or in my own strength (2 Corinthians 3:5-6)

Like Esther, I also sometimes make myself vulnerable and share my request with someone else. Just knowing I’m not alone helps me move forward.

Just do it!

Esther set a deadline—fast and pray for three days and then she’d go before the king (Esther 4:16).

Deadlines can work for us, too. We can pray and think about it forever, but in the end, it’s time to just get the job done.

After the three-day fast ended, Esther walked into the throne room uninvited and faced the king on behalf of her people.

Leave the results in God’s hands

One of the hardest parts of my calling is asking.  I send out proposals and ask publishers if they’re interested.  I ask businesses about book signings.  I ask for input on my book from others. I  ask people to join my launch team.  I ask radio stations if I can come on the air.

I have to ask.  It’s part of being an author, but it’s the hardest part for me because I fear rejection. What if others say, “no?”

I’m learning, though, to leave the results up to God.

Esther made a famous declaration when she finally decided to go before the king, saying, “If I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16).

These are words of submission to God’s big plan.

Whatever happens, no matter what the outcome, I’ve done what God wants me to do and He’s in control.

Sometimes I ask myself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen here?” And then I remember that any “worst thing” I face is still in God’s hands.

Success doesn’t depend on me, nor was it up to Esther to change public policy or the heart of the king.

Ultimately, we can walk in obedience and trust God with the outcome.  Even if the worst happens, He will carry us through.

Celebrate

When Esther obeyed, God saved her people.  As a result, the Jews celebrated, and they are still celebrating the Feast of Purim with “feasting and gladness” to this day! (Esther 9:22 ESV).

In a much smaller way, I celebrate even the smallest acts of obedience, too.

When I’ve made the phone call I didn’t want to make, talked to the person I was afraid to talk to, stood up for something when I was afraid to speak, or submitted a proposal when I feared rejection, I usually treat myself.

It’s not big or expensive. For me, it might be a a hot cup of tea or a piece of dark chocolate, maybe a morning off from normal work in order to rest and read.

Maybe your treat is a Starbucks coffee or a new book.

It’s not about going big; it’s about rejoicing over obedience and celebrating what God has done in us!

Want to learn more about Esther’s fears and how God helps us go “Anywhere” with Him, even when we’re terrified?  My new book, Anywhere Faith, is available now.anywhere-faith

When We’re Tempted to Pull In, Reach Out Instead

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My daughter was five at the time, and I put my hand gently on her back to usher her into the minivan.

She did not move.

But my lecture about wasting time and ‘please can you hurry because we don’t want to be late!’ caught in my throat when I glanced back at her.

Her head was bowed, her eyes squeezed shut.  Her hands were clasped and tucked under her chin.

She was praying.

I bowed my head to her and heard the whisper:

Dear God, please help the person who is hurt and help the fire truck make them safe and all better.  Amen.

That’s when I finally heard them: The sirens in the distance that I’d been blocking out with busy thoughts and Mom-instructions to “get your seatbelts on quickly” and “take turns sitting in the middle seat” and “make sure you have all your stuff.”

You know.  Life.

Life crowded out the need, crowded out others.  It tunneled my vision so I saw only my agenda, heard only my voice, pushed and shoved and crammed right up to the Father with only my own needy self in mind.

As parents, my husband and I have had our more spiritual moments.  We’ve hushed the general din of six people crowded in the minivan so we could pray about the fire truck or the ambulance passing us on the road.

So my girl took this to heart.  She tucked it into her soul and now she watches and listens and drops her head down the instant she senses the need to pray.

She even stopped the mad dash to the coveted middle seat of the minivan and let her sisters rush in to claim the prime spots in order to pause and pray.

She let go of self.  She focused on another.

My little prayer powerhouse reminded me to get down on my knees and beg for God to help me see.

Because somehow there’s this automatic pull of humanity back to self.  Somehow the noise within us drowns out the noise without….so we no longer hear the cries of need from a needy world.

Somehow we lose the eyes of God, the ears of God, the heart of God.

Moses also teaches me to see others with God’s vision.

He stood on a holy mountain preparing to die.  Moses was not to enter the Promised Land and he knew God’s intentions to take him up a mountain he would never climb down.

But his eyes were not on his own immediate need, but on the people of Israel instead.

He could have asked for a legacy.

He could have begged for forgiveness and the chance to step at least one weary foot onto Canaan’s soil.

But he didn’t.

Instead, he prayed:

Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd (Numbers 27:16-17 ESV)

Long before Jesus, Moses stood overlooking the crowd and saw them with God’s eyes as sheep that have no shepherd.

Centuries later, Jesus Himself stood and saw this same need:

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36 ESV).

Moses got right to the heart of the matter, right to the need before him and put aside his own affairs—he was, after all, moments from death—-in order to intercede on behalf of God’s people.

His heart matched God’s own heart.

He had 20/20 vision instead of cataracts of selfishness marring his perspective.

Selfishness takes up time and takes up space; it muscles out God and keeps us from loving others.

Today, let’s lay it down.

In the moments we’re tempted to focus our vision on our own need, our own circumstances, our own weariness, may we deliberately choose to prayerfully reach out to and lift up another.

Because it’s in our moments of deepest need that we can be most sensitive, most compassionate, most prayerfully passionate on behalf of others.

prayerlovingothers

Originally published 3/18/2015

5 Simple Ways to Remember to Pray for Others

pray-for-others

“The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know.”
1 Timothy 2:1 MSG

“I’ll pray for ya!”

That’s what we promise.

But do we really remember?  When life crowds in, do we keep our promise to pray for surgeries, doctor’s appointments, marriages, infertility, job interviews, ministry events, concerns about children, or direction….not for ourselves, but for others?

Because truth be told, so often we’re selfish, attending to our own needs and forgetting the needs of others.

Or maybe we’re distracted. Far too busy.  Simply forgetful.

We need, though, not just to say we’re going to pray, but to truly bow down at the throne of God and lift up our friends, family, and church members, interceding on their behalf. 

Oswald Chambers wrote:

“Your part in intercessory prayer is not to agonize over how to intercede, but to use everyday circumstances and people God puts around you by His providence to bring them before His throne and to allow the Spirit in you the opportunity to intercede for them.  In this way, God is going to touch the whole world with His saints.

God does not appoint one person in a group to pray for everyone else or call one person to intercessory prayer and give everyone else a “Get Out of Prayer” card.

He invites all of us to His throne room on behalf of the people we meet in “everyday circumstances and people God puts around you by His providence.”

Perhaps God sent you through that particular line at the grocery store so you could meet and pray for your cashier.

Maybe the hairdresser who checks your name off the list and calls you back to the shampoo bowl was God-appointed so that you could pray for her.

That interruption in your day that sent you to the store unexpectedly may have been so that you could meet up with a friend from small group who needs prayer.

So then, how do you combat forgetfulness and busyness and self-centeredness and make praying for others a consistent reality rather than a broken promise?

  1.  Mark it on your calendar: Mingled among doctor’s appointments, ballet lessons, and cookouts, prayer requests dot my calendar.  Surgery dates, job interviews, baby due dates, and court appearances are marked on the squares so that I will remember to pray on the very days necessary.
  2. Pray right away: If someone calls me with a prayer request, I may very well pray right there on the phone.  If not, I pray as soon as I  hang up.  I may be cutting onions, stirring pasta, washing dishes or folding clothes while I’m doing it, but I’m praying while it is fresh on my heart and mind.  If I receive an email with a prayer request, I pray over it as I read and as soon as I’m finished.
  3. Pray as you read Scripture:  As I read, I ask God to reveal Scriptures that I can pray for those on my prayer list and He does.  Right there in that moment, Bible in my hand, I pray for the person who has popped into my mind in association with that verse. ” God, place a new song in her heart” (Psalm 40).  “God, fill her with the knowledge of Your will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Colossians 1:9).  Every time I open my Bible, I begin a conversation with God that often includes requests for others.
  4. Stop, Drop and Pray: We’ve all had those moments when we’re running through our day and a friend appears in our thoughts for a moment.  “I need to call her,” we might think.  Or, “I need to remember to pray for her later.”  I’ve learned to obey the prompting of the Holy Spirit and pray right then and there.  I don’t need to wait until my quiet time to lift up a friend to God.  I stop where I am, drop what I’m doing even if only for a few seconds, and pray—-before I forget and before urgent things distract me.
  5. Post It:  I’ve tried keeping a notebook of prayer requests before and it hasn’t worked for me.  What I have done, though, is find ways to post the prayer requests so I see them all day and pray for them often.  I have a prayer list for my kids on my refrigerator door.  I’ve posted index cards around my desk with prayer requests for others.  I have a prayer card in my Bible and another in my car.

Too often we try to confine prayer to specific times, meetings, sacred places and holy moments.  But prayer can happen right here and now.

As soon as the Holy Spirit nudges our heart, we can offer those prayers up to Him on behalf of others.

Originally posted 5/25/2011

Making a Prayer Pail: How to get out of that same-old prayer rut

prayerpail

My four-year-old always manages to surprise me with her prayers.  She keeps them fresh.  What rolls off her tongue is what is just rolling out of her heart and mind.

But she’s the exception.

We do this nightly round-robin of prayers as a family.  Mostly, my family slips easily into a rut of prayers.  I can tell you what one of my daughters will pray almost word-for-word every…single….night.

Not only does she stick to the same verbal prayer routine, she has taken to praying at lightning speed, like she gets extra spiritual bonus points for crossing the finish line of “Amen” in record time.

Prayer should be more than that, right?

This message is for me.  I don’t want to trek over those same prayer grooves night after night.  I don’t want to pray out of “should” or “must” or spiritual duty, doing little more than checking off that sacred to-do-list.

Prayer should be this great passion.

Too often, we forget this: That we are granted access before the very throne of our Mighty God by the grace of our Savior.  Prayer brings us into His presence.  It’s beautiful and intimate and it should knock me right off my feet really to realize that a God so great could care about the tiniest needs of my simple soul.

So, how to help us all shake off the routine of prayer?  How to remind myself and my kids that we should be praying for our missionaries, our church leaders, our government, our teachers, our friends and family in addition to our own little needs?

I saw this idea shared at The Women’s Bible Cafe and had this moment of, “Oh my goodness, this is the best idea ever.”  It’s not something I could just pin on Pinterest and never turn into reality in my own home.  This was something that needed to actually happen.

Delfina Salas, the mom who inspired this awesome idea, gave me permission to make my own prayer pail and share the results with you.

She let her kids decorate a tiny bucket and some Popsicle sticks.  Then they wrote on each stick a prayer prompt—a missionary name or something like ‘government leaders.’

At dinner, they choose one Popsicle stick and pray for whatever is written on it.

Some of you might use prayer calendars in a similar way to help you remember to pray for a variety of needs.

But me?  A mom with four young kids?  Popsicle sticks with prayer requests seems like a good fit!

So, here’s our prayer pail….015

We included each family member, extended family, soldiers, government leaders, teachers and schools, pastors and church leaders, and three different missionary families we know from our church.

My heart is to make this happen:

 The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live (1 Timothy 2:1-3 MSG).

Thank you so much, Delfina, for the suggestion and allowing me to share this idea with others!

Have you found ways to revive your prayer life or help your kids learn how to pray for others?

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

Five Simple Ways to Remember to Pray for Others

“The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know.”
1 Timothy 2:1 MSG

“I’ll pray for ya!”

That’s what we promise.remembertopray

But do we really remember?  When life crowds in, do we keep our promise to pray for surgeries, doctor’s appointments, marriages, infertility, job interviews, ministry events, concerns about children, or direction….not for ourselves, but for others?

Because truth be told, so often we’re selfish, attending to our own needs and forgetting the needs of others.

Or maybe we’re distracted. Far too busy.  Simply forgetful.

We need, though, not just to say we’re going to pray, but to truly bow down at the throne of God and lift up our friends, family, and church members, interceding on their behalf. 

Oswald Chambers wrote:

“Your part in intercessory prayer is not to agonize over how to intercede, but to use everyday circumstances and people God puts around you by His providence to bring them before His throne and to allow the Spirit in you the opportunity to intercede for them.  In this way, God is going to touch the whole world with His saints.

God does not appoint one person in a group to pray for everyone else or call one person to intercessory prayer and give everyone else a “Get Out of Prayer” card.

He invites all of us to His throne room on behalf of the people we meet in “everyday circumstances and people God puts around you by His providence.”

Perhaps God sent you through that particular line at the grocery store so you could meet and pray for your cashier.

Maybe the hairdresser who checks your name off the list and calls you back to the shampoo bowl was God-appointed so that you could pray for her.

That interruption in your day that sent you to the store unexpectedly may have been so that you could meet up with a friend from small group who needs prayer.

So then, how do you combat forgetfulness and busyness and self-centeredness and make praying for others a consistent reality rather than a broken promise?

  1.  Mark it on your calendar: Mingled among doctor’s appointments, ballet lessons, and cookouts, prayer requests dot my calendar.  Surgery dates, job interviews, baby due dates, and court appearances are marked on the squares so that I will remember to pray on the very days necessary.
  2. Pray right away: If someone calls me with a prayer request, I may very well pray right there on the phone.  If not, I pray as soon as I  hang up.  I may be cutting onions, stirring pasta, washing dishes or folding clothes while I’m doing it, but I’m praying while it is fresh on my heart and mind.  If I receive an email with a prayer request, I pray over it as I read and as soon as I’m finished.1timothy2
  3. Pray as you read Scripture:  As I read, I ask God to reveal Scriptures that I can pray for those on my prayer list and He does.  Right there in that moment, Bible in my hand, I pray for the person who has popped into my mind in association with that verse. ” God, place a new song in her heart” (Psalm 40).  “God, fill her with the knowledge of Your will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Colossians 1:9).  Every time I open my Bible, I begin a conversation with God that often includes requests for others.
  4. Stop, Drop and Pray: We’ve all had those moments when we’re running through our day and a friend appears in our thoughts for a moment.  “I need to call her,” we might think.  Or, “I need to remember to pray for her later.”  I’ve learned to obey the prompting of the Holy Spirit and pray right then and there.  I don’t need to wait until my quiet time to lift up a friend to God.  I stop where I am, drop what I’m doing even if only for a few seconds, and pray—-before I forget and before urgent things distract me.
  5. Post It:  I’ve tried keeping a notebook of prayer requests before and it hasn’t worked for me.  What I have done, though, is find ways to post the prayer requests so I see them all day and pray for them often.  I have a prayer list for my kids on my refrigerator door.  I’ve posted index cards around my desk with prayer requests for others.  I have a prayer card in my Bible and another in my car.

Too often we try to confine prayer to specific times, meetings, sacred places and holy moments.  But prayer can happen right here and now. As soon as the Holy Spirit nudges our heart, we can offer those prayers up to Him on behalf of others.

Originally posted as Pray for Us, Part II, 5/25/2011

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

The Winners Are. . . and Devotions from My Garden: The Storms May Come

Well, it’s the big giveaway announcement to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the blog!!!

I used a random number generator (random.org) to select two winners.  The winner of the amazing necklace and bracelet set from Rita Taylor is: Lynn Holt!!!!

The winner of the gardening gift basket is:  Theresa Nunn!!!!

Congratulations!!!  I’ll privately message each of you with more details about getting these prizes to you.  Thanks so much to all who commented, shared, and posted as part of the contest!

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Devotions From My Garden:The Storms May Come

My daffodils were a pitiful sight to see.

Duped by unseasonably warm weather, including a smattering of 70 degree days in December and January, they had poked their little green stems out of the earth early.

Too early.

By the second week of January, their yellow buds were eagerly waiting to open.  Now it’s mid-February and these early spring flowers have been in bloom for almost a month.

All this time, my daughters have been waiting, hoping, and even calling in requests to God for snow.  Our nightly family prayer time has become more like petitioning a weather man than a Holy God.

“Dear God, please let it snow and please let it be a really good snow and please let us have no school tomorrow because there’s so much snow.”

My seven-year-old explains the intricacies of the snow dance to me as taught to her by her teacher.  Apparently it involves dancing in the shower and singing at the top of your lungs for snow.

I told these snow bunnies of mine that winter weather at this point would be devastating to my lovely daffodils.  How could they survive February frosts much less the blizzard my daughters wanted?

I said, “We can have snow or we can have a pretty spring garden.  Not really both.”

They thought snow was the better option.

Meanwhile, I mourned my daffodils when a few mornings of thick frost left them wilted and droopy.  Then it snowed, a small, one-inch dusting, and I thought my flowers were doomed for sure.

This afternoon, I plodded past them on the way to the mailbox and felt the warmth of another spring-like day . . .  in February . . . and noticed that my daffodils were standing a little stronger and straighter.  They hadn’t died after all.  They hadn’t wilted away or rotted back into the ground.  They were lovely, bright, and cheerful, just as they should be.

I didn’t know how hardy they were, how strong and and able to withstand difficulty.

Sometimes we don’t know this about people, either.  We try to shield them from trials, hard times, or tough situations.

I do this with my children.  I know it.  I try to step out of the way and let them develop character and learn lessons without my intervention.  Yet, it’s hard when rescuing seems so easy.

We do this as Christians, too.  We pray away difficulty for others and ask for safety, health, blessing and goodness.  It’s not that the asking is wrong.  Jesus tells us we can ask. But, perhaps our prayers on their behalf would be more effective if we asked God to strengthen and encourage them, to walk with them through the difficult times, and to reveal Himself to them along the way.

Perhaps that’s why Paul tended to pray for the spiritual life of his fellow believers and not for their material well-being or comfort.  He didn’t end his letters with prayers for financial abundance, a new house or a better job.

Instead, he prayed, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

He didn’t pray away hardship.  He prayed people through it.

In a similar way, we so often try to make the Christian walk sound easier than it is.  We want it to be appealing and simple.

So we sweep Jesus’ assertion that “in this world you will have trouble” under the rug and hope people just pay attention to lovely thoughts like “Jesus loves you” and “Ask and you will receive.”

It’s our Gospel filter.  We tell the stories about compassionate-Jesus, meek-and-mild-Jesus, “Blessed is everyone” Jesus, the great teacher Jesus and the famous healer-Jesus.

Jesus, however, tended to tell people the cost of discipleship.  He always knew the root issue, the stronghold, the one thing someone wouldn’t be willing to give up—and He asked for it.

Like the rich young ruler.  Jesus could have said, “Just believe in me.  You’re a great guy.  This step of faith is just going to seal the deal.”

Instead, Jesus saw the materialism in this seeker’s heart and “looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.'” (Mark 10:21).

It says that Jesus “loved him” and out of that love, He asked for the hardest sacrifice, the one idol that would keep Christ from having lordship in his life.

In the same way, Paul and Barnabus assured early Christians that, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

It’s our way with people, usually, to try to shield them from frosts and from snow storms.  We think, “Surely this weather will kill their buds and destroy their blooms and their stems will rot into the ground.  They’ll never survive.”

Jesus, though, told people in advance that tough times were coming and that the Christian life was no guarantee of perpetual blessing, prosperity, or comfort.

Yet, He assured people that the sacrifice was worth it.  Yes, it might be tough, sometimes requiring the painful laying down of idols in our lives.  But Jesus would be with them, He would strengthen them, He would take them through it all and there was eternity to gain and God’s glory as a result.

It’s not that it can’t snow on the daffodils.  It’s that Christ will strengthen them for every storm.  This is true for our kids, learning tough lessons.  This is true for fellow believers, facing hard times.  This is true for non-Christians, learning the cost of discipleship.  God can care for them, even when the storms may come.

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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