Morning Prayers to Start Your Day

I do not understand the snooze button on an alarm clock.  I never have.

To me, sleep only works when you’re actually sleeping.

The first beep of an alarm wakes me up.  From that moment on, my mind is racing on into the day.  I’m not sleeping; I’m thinking.

Worse yet, I’m thinking without actually doing anything about the million-and-one things I’m thinking about, which is a pretty stressful way to start the day,  feeling like I’m already behind.

Snooze buttons only work for people who can fall asleep in two seconds and don’t mind sleeping in batches of 5 minutes at a time.

Since that isn’t me, it’s just a way to procrastinate my way into the morning and procrastination super-stresses me out.

But moms don’t get to dictate their sleep habits, sleep cycle, sleep hours, sleep anything.  We’re just thankful for whatever sleep we get.

I’ve only needed an actual alarm clock a handful of times since I gave birth to my oldest child over 14 years ago.  I have a new alarm clock called “Kids.”

Unfortunately, this new wake-up system came fully equipped with nothing less than a human snooze button.

Babies wake up and go back to sleep, wake up again and go back to sleep.  Toddlers choose to wake mom up whenever the baby is still sleeping.

Now it’s my school children with staggered schedules waking me up in waves as their own alarm clocks go off and they troop down the stairs and into the kitchen for breakfast.

I have early risers and I have night owls who don’t exactly appreciate the need to rise and shine and they all like me to be awake when they are awake.

My sleep patterns are dictated by the sleeping or lack of sleeping of a whole posse of other people.

I know in my heart this truth: I need to bring God right into the beginning of my day.  I need to  start it with prayer before I head out of bed and into  the to-do list.

But while I agree with the ideal, my life feels louder than that so many days.  Crazier than that.  Messier than that.

And yet, I still need His presence.  Maybe because of all the noise and rush, I need His presence even more desperately than someone who can lie in the quiet and calm of a morning and spend a few extra minutes in uninterrupted prayer.

I sure need Jesus to be right here in the middle of my mess.

My days tend to take turns for the unexpected.  The long, extended quiet time that I’ve been planning for days hasn’t happened yet, because the phone rang, and I got a message, and there was a doctor’s appointment (or two) and an after school activity (or ten of them).

But I read what a missionary wrote in his journal long ago:

“Poor and weak though we are, our abode is a very Bethel to our souls, and God we feel and know is here” (Richard Williams).

Bethel.  That means “House of God.”

It’s the place where God’s presence dwells.   That’s where Jacob saw the vision of the stairway connecting heaven and earth and the angels ascending and descending.

I’m reminded, then, that God’s presence right here in the middle of my life makes any situation, any morning, any messy day, any short quiet time in the parked minivan while waiting for my daughters outside of school… a Bethel for my soul.

Because God is here.

I’m still fighting for that extended quiet time.  I know it will happen.

But even on days it doesn’t, I’m learning  to “Do Messy Faith….” to pursue His presence on-the-go instead of waiting until all the circumstances are perfect to meet with Him.  Because if I wait for perfect, then it won’t happen.

So I don’t have an hour to spend in quiet with the Bible.  I have the Bible on my phone and my Kindle.

So I don’t have the luxury of a quiet morning wake-up.  I have a human snooze alarm and I can whisper those prayers in between morning visits from my children.

Dear God, thank You for this day.

Dear God, guide me today.

Dear God, Your will be done, not mine.

Dear God, Please use me today.

Dear God, Please help me.  I can’t do it alone.

Dear Lord, teach me to be the wife and mom you want me to be.

Father, show me how to love as you love.

You have blessed me.  Lord, how can I be a blessing to others?

My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord;
In the morning I will direct it to You,
And I will look up.
Psalm 5:3 NKJV

What prayers do you whisper as you start your day?

Bible Verses about God’s Presence

  • Exodus 33:14 NASB
    And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”
  • Joshua 1:9 NASB
    Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
  • Psalm 16:11 NASB
    You will make known to me the path of life;
    In Your presence is fullness of joy;
    In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
  • Psalm 23:4 NASB
    Even though I walk through the [d]valley of the shadow of death,
    I fear no evil, for You are with me;
  • Psalm 27:4 NASB
    One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek:
    That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
    To behold the beauty of the Lord
    And to meditate in His temple.
  • Psalm 41:12 NASB
    As for me, You uphold me in my integrity,
    And You set me in Your presence forever.
  • Psalm 51:10-11 NASB
    Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
    11 Do not cast me away from Your presence
    And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
  • Psalm 73:28 NASB
    But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;
    I have made the Lord God my refuge,
    That I may tell of all Your works.
  • Psalm 100:2 ESV
      Serve the Lord with gladness!
        Come into his presence with singing!
  • Psalm 139:7-10 NASB
    Where can I go from Your Spirit?
    Or where can I flee from Your presence?
    If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
    If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
    If I take the wings of the dawn,
    If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
    10 Even there Your hand will lead me,
    And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
  • Psalm 140:13 NASB
    Surely the righteous will give thanks to Your name;
    The upright will dwell in Your presence.
  • Isaiah 57:15 NASB
    For thus says the high and exalted One
    Who [a]lives forever, whose name is Holy,
    “I dwell on a high and holy place,
    And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit
    In order to revive the spirit of the lowly
    And to revive the heart of the contrite.
  • Jeremiah 29:13 NASB
    You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
  • Matthew 18:20 NASB
    For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.
  • Matthew 28:20b NASB
    and lo, I am with you ]always, even to the end of the age.”
  • John 1:14 NASB
    And the Word became flesh, and [a]dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of [b]the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
  • John 14:16 NASB
    I will ask the Father, and He will give you another [a]Helper, that He may be with you forever
  • John 14:23 NASB
    Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.
  • Hebrews 4:16 NASB
    Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
  • Hebrews 10:19-22 NASB
    Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a [h]sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
  • Hebrews 13:5 NASB
    Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,”
  • James 4:8 NASB
     Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
  • Revelation 21:3 NASB
     And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them[

The holy longing for something more than right now

ecclesiastes3-11

“I’ll do that when I’m seven.”

“Or maybe when I’m ten.”

That’s the standard reply my five-year-old gives me.

Would you like to take ballet again in the fall?  

Do you think you would want to try this?

It’s never “yes” or “now” or even “soon.”

She has this timeline of plans, this plotted course, and she’s not really in a  hurry to jam-pack activity into this very moment right here.  Seven is soon enough. Ten is fine.  Why try to do everything when you’re five?

Part of me marvels at the wisdom.

What is it about me that tries to cram what feels like a life-time of living into every single day?

Something about me that cannot…..can….not…..leave the dirty dishes in the sink for the next morning.

I’m the anti-Scarlett O’Hara.  None of this, “I’ll think about that tomorrow” nonsense.  Today.  Today.  It has to be today.

I have to slip into bed every night, to-do list cleared out, dishes clean, laundry put away, nothing holding over for the next morning.

But my tiny girl lives out today and is content to let some things linger until tomorrow, or next year, or five years from now.

Today, she’ll do this.  And then one day she’ll do that.  Simple as that.

Part of me, though, worries:  What if I leave that for another day and that other day never comes?  Our lives are short.  Our future uncertain.  Our tomorrow is never guaranteed.

And if you leave too much left undone today, it just spills over on top of tomorrow and then the next day until it’s a 10-car pile-up of trauma and disaster.

I need to handle this and do this now, now, now!

In Lazarus Awakening, Joanna Weaver writes:

“Someone once asked, ‘Why do we tend to live like eternity lasts eighty years, but this life lasts forever?”

We are a mixed-up bunch: Our priorities, our timetables, all jumbled and topsy-turvy.

We think what we’re doing right now, this moment, this day, this season, this year, this project, this commitment, this ministry…is the end-all be-all.

It’s what keeps us up at night and what forces us out of bed in the mornings.

And yet, as Christians, the moment we choose for Christ to be our personal Savior, eternity with God begins.

It doesn’t start the day we die here and walk through heaven’s gates.

It begins that moment we bow our heads and our lives to His Lordship.

This very issue that leaves me sleepless and fretting or over-stuffing each day is a tiny speck in the grand timeline of eternity with Jesus.

And all those five-year-plans and ten-year-plans and budgets and agendas, hardly matter in the big picture of forever.

Our hearts long for this.  Truly.

God has created us for an eternal longing, a hope for something more:

He has also set eternity in the human heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11 b NIV).

We struggle to keep it all in balance and yet God breathes that refreshing breath into us, the reminder that THIS is not all there is.

The way the days sometimes stretch out in endless frustration or rushing or stress…that’s not forever.  That’s nothing more than a blip on the radar screen of the eternal.

Or the way one trial, a season of loss or pain or want, overtakes our life, and yet it’s here for this moment, and then it will be gone.

I read the reminder in Experiencing God:

God did not create you for time; He created you for eternity. Time- your lifetime on earth- provides the opportunity for you to become acquainted with Him. It provides occasions for Him to develop your character into His likeness. Then eternity will hold its fullest dimensions for you.

Every moment feels a little more sacred.

Not more rushed.

Not more stressed.

Not more important even.

But holy.

Because the life we’re living in the here and now is just part of that eternity with Jesus.  We can love Him, know Him and worship Him, spend each day in His presence, and that forever-life shifts our perspective.

This situation.  The to-do list.  The appointments.  The schedule.  The annoyance.  The personal hurt.  The betrayal.

Those are so temporary.

What matters most is yielding to Him.  It is listening to His Spirit.  It’s sharing a laugh with God or marveling over the beauty of His creation. It’s rejoicing over the salvation of another.  It is dumping the sin out of the trash-bin in my heart.  It is allowing God to construct peace or patience or joy in my life.

What matters?  What doesn’t?  It’s all a little clearer in the light of heaven.

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

Copyright © 2015 Heather King

Awaken to the holiness of God (so He doesn’t have to wake you up)

psalm 145

My daughter has one default answer to the question, “How are you?”

Most people default to, “Fine,” “Good,” “Okay,” or even “Great!”

I’ve heard people answer, “better than can be expected.”

And even, “blessed” or “still alive.”

Not her.  She has one response, “My tummy hurts.”

You may catch her in the middle of jumping up and down or running full-force outside on the playground.  Even then, if you ask how she’s feeling, she’ll pull a long face, drop her hand to her stomach and groan out an agonized, “My tummy hurts.”

Sometimes she’ll get really wild and crazy and say something totally unexpected like, “I have a headache.”  That’s just to keep us on our toes.

But when she started complaining this week of a stomachache, I fell into my normal mom-stance of skeptic complacency.

Sure, a stomachache.  So what else is new?

But it was new and different.  It was for real this time, a true illness that would confine her to the couch with a bucket for three days and counting.

She sure showed me!

How complacency blinds us and binds us!  One minute we’re living out the daily routine blindfolded and half checked out and the next minute we’re thrown awake, eyes wide-open, forced to pay attention.

Oh, for real this time.  This isn’t the normal.  This is new.

And we need to be shaken awake.

God didn’t design us to live life and live faith halfway asleep and mostly disengaged.

He wants our full attention.

So, He’s not above surprising us sometimes.

Maybe David needed a surprise like that.

When King David announced that the Ark of the Lord should be brought home to Jerusalem, the priests should have followed proper protocol.

Instead, they loaded what probably seemed like an old and generally meaningless relic from bygone days onto a cart and sent it on down the road.

They broke the rules.  God told them exactly how to handle His presence—carried on poles on the shoulders of priests, not bumbling down a bumpy road in a cart entrusted to animals.

So, when the Ark started to tumble off onto the ground, Uzzah the priest reached out to catch it, thinking surely he was doing the right thing, the good thing, the honorable thing.

But he was struck dead by the holy might of Almighty God.

No one should have touched the Ark.  Not ever.

Max Lucado writes:

Uzzah should have known this.  He was a priest, a Koathite priest, a descendent of Aaron himself.  The ark had been kept in the house of his father, Abinadab. He had grown up with it.  Which may be the best explanation for his actions…..The message: don’t grow lax before the holy.  God won’t be loaded on convenient wagons or toted about by dumb animals….

King David snapped to awake.  Of course, he snapped to anger also, exploding at God about the injustice of Uzzah’s death.

And then He worshiped in awe.

The truth is, all those years living in the same house as the Ark hadn’t impressed Uzzah; it had made him complacent, like he was handling little more than a dust-covered knick-knack from a living room shelf.

All those years living in the same house with my daughter, and she still manages to surprise me.

All these years of marriage, I still discover my husband and could there be any better than falling and falling and falling in love?

And, all these years with Jesus, surely He still surprises.  And amazes.

Just when you think you know what size box God fits in, He loves to show off His might.

Just when you think you know how far faith will take you, He asks you to go farther.

Just when you think you understand how deep His love is, He draws you down deeper.

David’s praise became rooted in a God who is great beyond comprehension:

 Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;

    his greatness no one can fathom (Psalm 145:3 NIV, emphasis mine).

God sure can surprise us.

In fact, He can shock us right out of our socks and shoes some times.

How much better, though, to lean in and listen….

To quiet our restless hearts…..

To be still….

To pause and deeply look….

To awaken to the holiness of God and live life in awe of His presence, expecting His glory this very day, this very hour, this very moment.

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.

 

 

 

What Can Make You Lose Every Time

I watched as this college friend pulled clothes from her suitcase and packed them into a duffel bag for the Thanksgiving weekend at home.

She still had an empty dresser and a full suitcase 3/4 of the way through the college semester.

I am not like this.  I am an insta-unpacker.  The moment I arrive at a hotel, I nest.  I empty every bag, tuck every item away, fill the mini-kitchen and set up the bathroom sink.

When we return home, I’m going to unpack no matter how late it is.  I’m going to start that load of laundry and pull out the toiletries because it cannot wait until morning, not if I want to get any sleep.

Maybe I looked lost in confusion as I watched my friend move clothes from one bag to another because she stopped to explain it to me.psalm16-11

It wasn’t procrastination or laziness.

It was perfectionism.  It was that ugly enemy that paralyzes us with the lie:  If you can’t do it perfectly, then why do it at all?

“I was so busy,” she said, “I knew I didn’t have time to put my clothes away just right, so I left them in the suitcase.”

Beth Moore wrote:

Perfectionists always lose (Esther).

It’s the same way my son chose to crawl rather than walk for weeks and weeks.  People asked me, “Can he walk yet?”

Yes, he could walk.

Did he always choose to walk?

No.  It amused him to walk a little from room to room or place to place.  But when he wanted to get somewhere with certainty and with speed, he dropped to all fours and crawled like a rocket.

Perfectionism does this; it paralyzes us into this one place of development.  We’re comfortable here.  We move along well enough.  This is what we know.

Why choose stumbling?  Why choose uncertain steps and potential embarrassment?

This is what we lose when we demand perfection from ourselves:  We lose the journey of grace, the way God walks alongside, the way He steadies us with His strong hand and smiles at our progress.  The way He cheers us along and encourages us on the weary days to persevere and not give up, to get up and try once more because He is with us, after all.

Jesus said these words to His disciples and it could have broken over their weary souls like the cracking of a whip, so they felt trampled and beaten and hopeless:

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48 ESV).

Be…..perfect?

It’s tucked in just one tiny verse after the beatitudes and after Jesus tells them not to retaliate against their enemies, not to get divorced, not to lust, not to sin when they’re angry, and to love their enemies.

Yes, do all this.  And be perfect.

That would have caused me some religious whiplash.  If I were taking sermon notes on that hillside, I’d have written it down on my bulletin with exclamation marks and references to look up later in case the preacher was wrong.

Hadn’t the Pharisees preached legalism and works-based faith?  The religious elite told them to be perfect, be perfect, be perfect and if possible, be more perfect, because that’s what it took to please God.

Here I am at the end of my 12-month pursuit of the presence of Christ, and I’m ending the year with this: Abandon Perfection.

But how do you move on past a verse like this?

Be perfect?  That’s impossible.  I’m a mess some days, broken and faulty and prone to sin.

So, Jesus, does that mean we’re hopelessly blocked from Your presence and Your favor because this perfection just trips us all up?

Oh, but here’s the grace we perfectionists need.

Ravi Zacharias writes:

Perfection, then, is not a change in the essential character but the completion of a course...We can never be who God is, but we can complete the task he assigns us to do” (The Grand Weaver).

Jesus didn’t mean we had to attain that holiness on our own or get everything right and never falter or sin.  He knows we can’t.

He asks us, though, to move forward.  Take those steps.  Make progress.  Obey Him.

When He tells us to move, move.  When He plants us, bloom.  When He leads us, follow.  When He prompts us, go.  When He nudges us, yield.

Perfectionists lose because we get so focused on the end that we despair in the middle and simply give up.  Or we never begin in the first place.

But God asks us to just take a walk with Him, rest in His presence, trust His direction, enjoy His company.  Then we’ll be where He wants us to be, with Him….and that’ll be perfect.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I Abandon Perfection?

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

Learning to Linger

I’m tempted to rush.

On a rare day when I have this time, the temptation is there to fill it right up with more activity, more going and more doing.

Most days, I don’t have this luxury, of course.  It’s the mad morning scramble of toothbrushes, hair brushes, ribbons, bows, socks, shoes, lunches and backpacks to send children out to the bus stop.

Then, zoom into the day with the baby and the errands or meetings or Bible studies or appointments or whatever busyness has etched itself onto the schedule.psalm 27-14

But this day.  This one day.

After I watch my girls step onto that school bus, I return to my home and breathe in and out this uncertain freedom.  I don’t have to run out the door.  I don’t have to meet an external agenda or deadline until the afternoon.

So what to do?

Rush through my home, stuffing laundry into the washing machine and another load in the dryer?  Frantically move cereal bowls from sink to dishwasher and then grab the broom (maybe the mop if I’m inspired).  Respond to messages.  Catch up on the to-do list.  Fill out the forms.

So it goes, me filling up this one little space of time with too much, cramming in activity and sitting on the lid in hopes it will fit.

My tea, poured hot this morning turns cold.

My morning devotions, rushed through just to be done, leave me unfilled, uninspired, unopened to what God wants to say.

Too busy…too busy…just always too busy.

But today I consider Joshua.

Moses met with God face-to-face in a tent.  A pillar of cloud covered the entrance while the Israelites looked on from the flaps of their own tent dwellings, bowing in worship in the doorways.

When Moses finished talking with God, he returned to the camp to share the message with others.

Not Joshua, though.

“his assistant, the young man Joshua son of Nun, would not leave the inside of the tent” (Exodus 33:11 HCSB).

He wouldn’t budge from the glory and the presence, lingering there stubbornly while others moved along.

What if I chose to linger here….chose to be Joshua refusing to leave the tent as long as God’s glory electrified the air….chose for this one day to be Mary at the feet of Jesus rather than Martha slamming pots in the kitchen?

Because serving perpetually means serving empty and that means dying of spiritual starvation and dehydration.

We need the Mary moments so we can re-enter the kitchen as Martha and care for others cheerfully and ably until we have that opportunity once again to lay down the dish towel and sit at Jesus’ feet.

It’s not practical, of course.

That crowd of more than 5000 who sat on the hillside listening to Jesus hour upon hour should have been watching the clock.  They should have known what time it was and how long they had to travel back for food.  They should have abandoned the sermon and packed up their blankets and lawn chairs at a reasonable time so they could eat dinner at a reasonable hour.

Yet, Jesus rewarded their time in His presence.

Had they left early, they would have missed the miracle.

In order to witness God’s glory, they had to wait, they had to sit patiently and linger there until they received.

This is what I consider as I spend this month Sabbath-Keeping during my year-long pursuit of the presence of Christ.

In Living Beyond Yourself , Beth Moore writes:

“He placed them in a posture to rest in His provision.  He commanded them to “sit down” and fed only those who were “seated” (vv. 10-11) . . .”Are you ‘sitting down’ in a posture of trust and sitting quietly to receive it?  If so, prepare the baskets!”

For me, it’s just this one day a week to take my morning slow before the afternoon and evening wave of stress and busyness crashes down again.livingbeyond

For you, it may be a morning, a day….even a season of sitting and waiting on that hillside so you can see His glory, or a season at Jesus’ feet instead of in the kitchen, or a season of lingering in the tent.

Whatever the length of the wait and the stillness, it’s a discipline to rest rather than rush.

When we remain there, though, insistent on lingering where His presence is, we see His glory displayed and He fills us up with the sustenance of His presence and His Word.

But only when we wait until He says it’s time to move on.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I Practice Sabbath-Keeping’?

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

If I sit down for 15 minutes, will there be a cosmic meltdown?

I made a Mom-speech in the minivan to my kids as we headed home long past bedtime the other night:

These two weeks are going to be crazy busy.  You will be tired. And that means you’ll probably be grumpy.  When we get this tired, the ugly comes out.  So, for the next two weeks we have to show each other extra grace and patience and we need to rest whenever we can….

As soon as my speech ended, they continued bickering over prime-seating in the minivan and when we got home, they fought over prime seating during nighttime prayers and who knows what else.

I made the speech again.

I do this for my kids: I prepare their hearts and minds for busy seasons.  I remind them about grace.prayerrest

I ease the burden some, removing some expectations, allowing them to slack off in some areas so they can focus on what’s important right now.

I give them this breathing room.

But I don’t often do it for myself.

In my 12-month pursuit of the presence of Christ, I’ve reached November—the month when I’ll study and focus on the Sabbath.

And interestingly enough, I’m entrenched in two of the busiest weeks I’ve had since school ended last year.

Isn’t God funny that way?

I’m slowly reading Priscilla Shirer’s study: Breathe: Making Room for Sabbath and she teaches me about building Sabbath Margin into my life.  How to leave space for God to work.  How busyness can crowd out His will.

How there’s only so much time and if I’ve packed in the activity too tightly, I’ll run out of room to breathe.

But rest takes great effort for me.

It’s a spiritual discipline that I struggle with.  I’m better at keeping up with my yearly Bible reading plan and juggling multiple Bible studies and devotionals, memorizing Scripture, praying, and journaling than I am about obeying this Biblical command:  Rest.

I’m physically incapable of napping.  Instead of sleeping, I lie awake thinking about all the things I should be doing instead of sleeping.  By the time I finally give up and throw back the covers in defeat, I’m frantic about the wasted time and move faster through my to-do list to make up for it.

I feel guilty for leisure, embarrassed by free time, and apologetic for fun.

Taking a break feels like laziness.

There’s something else at work here beyond just an addiction to adrenaline.  Oh, how I hate for it to be true, and yet digging down deeply enough reveals its ugly presence—-pride.  Truly, it feels good to be needed.  It feels important to be so busy.

When I run around in a breathless pace, doing, doing, doing all the time, I act as if the world depends on me to function, as if me sitting down for 15 minutes would create cosmic meltdown.

And that’s why God, from the very first week of creation, instituted a Sabbath rest.  It wasn’t for His benefit, as if the Almighty God who created a sun, moon, and planet with the power of His words grew weary and needed to sleep.

No, the Sabbath was not for God.  Instead, Jesus “said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man” (Mark 2:27).

The Sabbath is for us.

It’s a reminder that the universe can exist without our involvement and labor.  It’s a re-ordering of our perspective, so that we remember it is God who is essential and not us.

So often, we forget that our jobs, our families, our ministries, our relationships, our everything depend not on our ability, but on God’s power.

We stress about meetings because we think everything relies on how well we present ourselves.  We plot out conversations because we think the outcome depends on the words we choose.  We think.  We plan.  We do.  We fix.  We busy ourselves.  We worry.  We analyze.  We lose sleep.

God knows the pride that burrows itself into our hearts; the tentacles it wraps around us as we seek fulfillment in accomplishments, in tasks completed, in people depending on us.

Sabbath isn’t about Pharisaical hypocrisy and legalism.  It’s not about do’s and don’ts.

It’s about Rest. 

And Rest is about humbly stepping aside. 

It’s about the placing and continual re-placing of God in control of our lives.

So, I’m going to take some rest time.  At least for next week, I’ll stay quiet on the blog….spending time reading, creating, being with God, being with my family, instead of writing and posting on my regular days.

I’ll be back the following week and I’ll announce the winners of the big giveaway, so keep entering!!

And I’ll hopefully remind my soul that it’s all about Him, always Him, never me.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I Practice Sabbath-Keeping’?

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

Eat Cereal and Go to Disney?

My daughter announced at the breakfast table that if we wanted to go to Disney World we all needed to eat a particular cereal.

“You want to go to Disney, right?”

She asked her five-year-old sister. Such an unfair question.  Of course, the five-year-old nodded, ‘yes.’

“Then you need to eat this cereal, see?”

I peek over my shoulder to see what she found: a contest on the back of the cereal box.  One grand prize winner.  Yada yada yada.

Not exactly the reality she was trying to spin for her siblings: Eat this box of cereal = a free trip to Disney for the family.

But my children feel they have a deprived existence because:

(A) We do not own a dog.

(B) We have never been to Disney.

I promise her that I’ve entered plenty of Free Trip to Disney contests before yet I’ve still never been there.  It’s because I never win anything.

(Well, once I won a drawing at the public library for the adult summer reading program.  The nice librarian called and told me I had won and could come pick up my prize.  I was ecstatic with joy.  So much so that he felt the need to assure me that it was just a tiny little prize and not to expect anything big.  He didn’t want me to be disappointed.  It didn’t matter.  I had WON something.)

But as I try to protect my dear daughter from the inevitable disappointment of finding that eating this particular cereal did not by default mean we’d be standing outside Cinderella’s castle next summer, I remember my prize from last week.

We made our annual family trek to the pumpkin patch.  When I paid to get in, the nice lady at the farm handed me a jar of homemade pumpkin butter.

She said the first 25 families that visited the farm that day were receiving a gift.

We had won!

In fact, she didn’t have any more jars there on the shelf behind her, so I’m pretty sure we were number 25, making this all the more reason to celebrate.

And all I had to do was show up.

Oh, we love to complicate things don’t we?

I think how difficult I can make this sometimes, asking what I need to do to win God’s affection or attention and earn His favor.

I can know it in my head.  It’s grace.  It’s mercy.  He doesn’t need me to perform elaborate rituals or scream and shout for the prize of His divine attention.james4

Still I forget.

I think surely I must have let Him down and disappointed Him or missed a step and messed things up along the way.  Maybe He’d have blessed me, but I did something wrong and now He can’t.  Or I made a wrong decision somewhere and stumbled out of His perfect plan for me.

It makes it seem so fickle.  Like I’m playing some guessing game and the prize for guessing correctly is His favor and affection.  But one wrong answer and I’m out.

Yet, James 4:8a says:

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

Draw near.

I read about the resurrection appearance of Jesus, how He appeared first to Mary Magdaelene and then to the other women who had visited the tomb that morning.

In her devotional, Revealing Jesus, Darlene Zschech asks:

Why did Jesus appear first to two women? The answer is so simple. They were the ones who showed up first. 

We won’t always get it right.  Sometimes just ‘showing up’ begins with that first humble act of repentance, of praying in earnest that the Holy Spirit do His work, search our hearts, purify and refine.

But showing up also means just coming as we are.  Not trying to figure out some complicated formula in order to gain admittance to see Jesus. We don’t have to delay coming to Him because we’re not ready yet or worry that He’ll send us back because we’re so unworthy.

We come.

We just.  Come.

And we ask:  Lord, I long for Your presence and I’m drawing near to You today. I’m resting here at Your feet and I’m desperate to spend time with You.  Forgive me, cleanse me.  Please draw near to me.  ~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 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

I like my marshmallows crispy (AKA burnt)

She holds the marshmallow too close to the blue flame and it ignites.  Then she blows with one puff of her cheeks and giggles at the sight of her charred and blackened puff of sugar on a stick.

I tease her that she burns them on purpose and she confesses as much: “I like them crispy.”

We’ve huddled around the tiny Sterno burner set in the middle of our kitchen table with long forks poked through marshmallows to roast them and make S’mores, a favorite treat.

On a night when we have time, when we miraculously aren’t scarfing down dinner and rushing into the car for an evening of dance classes followed by church activities, we like to roast the marshmallows over the flame.

zechariah4-6

photo courtesy of Viktor Janacek, picjumbo

Not living on a campground, however, we use the Sterno instead–filled with fuel that burns blue and purple when lit by my match.

When we’ve each charred our marshmallow and smashed it down on the milk chocolate with the two graham crackers, I smother the flame with the lid, blocking the fire from the necessary oxygen for burning and thriving.

And it dies.

Just sputters right out, so simply, so quickly, so inevitably… suffocation through lack of breath.

How breathless I’ve been.

The running, the pace, the schedule.

The remembering: appointments, agenda books, reading logs, library books, dance schedules, Bible verses, lunches, emails, jackets, reaching out to friends, counseling my children.

Trying not to forget the Holy Spirit words stuck to my fridge, my bathroom mirror, my car:  Love is patient.

Remembering that, too.

It’s beauty day in and day out, watching these children grow, loving on them, learning from them.  This is the blessing that makes me pause and whisper thanks to God.

It’s beauty to minister, beauty to serve, beauty to love others with God’s love and to give generously to them just as He has given generous heaps of mercy and grace to me.

Beauty takes sacrifice, though, it takes giving and giving and giving and sometimes I forget.

I forget that running breathless too long suffocates, cutting off the oxygen we need to survive.

How often we do this, too:  Fueling our flames with our own resources, running our own self-provided fuel.

Then we run dry.

The prophet Zechariah teaches me this truth.  He has a vision—-“a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lamps on it, with seven channels to the lamps. Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left” (Zechariah 4:1-6).

I rush past the words in my Bible, treating them like just another mysterious prophetic vision, obscure, and disconnected from my life.

But even Zechariah didn’t understand at first, and the angel has to explain:

“This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty (Zechariah 4:6).

In the Our Daily Bread Bible, I read:

“The prophet saw two olive trees that supplied oil to a bowl that fed seven lamps on a golden lampstand.  As we think about the reality behind this symbolism, we can be encouraged.  You and I are not the source of light that enlightens the world.  We can only receive the oil of the Holy Spirit that fuels the living flame He produces.  If we burn steadily through the long, dark hours, it is because we have learned to yield our lives to the Spirit’s unlimited supply of power and strength.  This comes only through continual fellowship with Jesus our Savior (p. 1018).

I sang this as a kid, a little sing-songy Sunday school tune:  “Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning…..”

It was catchy and cute then.

It’s breath in my lungs now.

Do you feel the grace here?

You and I don’t have to be enough, don’t have to keep ourselves going, keep up the pace, keep things together….we aren’t the source and the world doesn’t depend on us or rest all heavy and cumbersome on our wimpy shoulders.

We seek the oil of His Spirit poured into us and that is our Source, our Strength, our fuel that keeps on going and doesn’t run dry or sputter out or suffocate and die.

Not by my might (I’m so weak and helpless really).

Not by power (I tire easily and can’t keep all this together).

But by His Spirit.

Oh yes, Lord, fill us anew with Your Spirit.

 

Originally posted September 20, 2013

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

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

Am I Asking Jesus to Leave?

She said he was afraid.

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

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

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

He was such a Bad Guy, she told them.

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

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

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

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

The Lord Jesus Christ

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

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

Peter shared the truth:

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

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

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

But there’s something else….

I read in the Gospels:

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

The people were afraid of Jesus at work.

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

All because they were afraid.

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

Were they afraid of His power?

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

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

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

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

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

He is God.  I am not.

He is holy.  I am not.

We need the reawakening of awe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because we’re afraid.

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

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

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

Copyright © 2014 Heather King