I Bring Mess; He Brings Beauty

“But you remain the same, and your years will never end” (Psalm 102:27).

“Mom, I know how to spell the word ‘kissing.’”Photo by Viktor Hanacek

That’s what my daughter told me when she was in first grade.

I wonder how to answer.  Marvel over her accomplishment?  Ask to see her spelling list?

Finally, I decide to stick with Classic Mom: “Wow, that’s a pretty big word.  Spell it for me.”

Immediately, my first grader breaks out into the full-voiced sing-songy chant:

 “K-I-S-S-I-N-G
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.”

Some things never change.

The same chants, the same games, the same tears, the same laughs, the same hand-claps and rhymes and teasing from generation right on to the next.

Some things never seem to change with me either.

The truth is I need a Savior.  I can make 50 resolutions a day not to lose my temper with my kids, but the moment my poky child pits herself against this super-speed mom, I fail.

In my own, the holding it together and the being perfect don’t happen. I find myself sitting in the pupil’s chair again, learning the same lesson from God that He taught me last year, and the year before that, and year after year after perpetual year.

In lessons of patience, grace, love and flexibility, I learn so slow.

But there’s something else that never changes.

God.

He’s immutable, unchanging, “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), who doesn’t alter “like shifting shadows” (James 1:17)

In all of my wayward sameness, I choose to go back to the beginning.

That same God, who stared at the dark shapeless mess and saw the potential beauty of the created earth sees beauty in me, as well.  He sees it in you.

No one but God could have seen the potential in that pre-Creation space. Genesis 1:2 tells us, “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”treasure

Formless, empty and dark.

And God said, “Let there be light.”

Our God can make glorious possibilities out of nothingness, painting the sky onto a blank canvas.

He is original and uniquely imaginative, designing solutions that our finite minds could never have achieved.  That means when I am hopeless with no possibility of salvation, I know my God can create a solution that is beyond my comprehension.

And I know He can bring order to the most disordered and messy aspects of my life just as He shaped the earth out of what was “formless and void.”

So when it comes to the things that just don’t seem to change in me, it’s best for me to “let go, and let God.”  I struggle and strive to do the work of self-improvement, only to fail at the first sign of stress.

But when I call on the name of Jesus and bring the messy disorder of it all to Him, He sifts through the mud and mire and brings forth treasure.

It takes honesty, though, the heart-felt, soul-bearing truth when we finally just say, “God, this is a mess.  I can’t do it.  I’ve tried.  I’m a failure at this.  I’ve done it again.  I’ve fallen into the pit.”

When we finally stop pretending to be perfect, then and only then, can Jesus get busy creating, forming, cleaning, and ordering the mess we’ve brought to His feet.

Lisa Harper wrote,

Our Redeemer will carefully help us sort the treasures from the trash.  If we’ll just be honest about the emotional boxes we’ve squirreled away, Jesus will take charge of the cleaning process (Stumbling Into Grace).

Our honesty allows God to do the dirty work of changing us.  So, even when it’s painful, and even when it’s slow, and even when it’s hard, we know that we really aren’t staying the same.  The lessons may be the same-old, same-old, and yet our never-changing, immutable God teaches us a bit more and goes a little bit deeper.

We’re growing.  Sometimes in shoots and spurts.  Sometimes in painful inches.

Sometimes we can’t see the change at all, but our roots far below the surface are digging deeper down, planting us firm into the soil so that God can do the visible work later without toppling us right on over.

We’re changing.  But, praise God, He’s not.  He’s what really never changes.  With all His patience, and all His grace, with the love that manages to see beauty in our mess, He’s the Ever-Faithful Creator and we His beloved creation.

What messes do you need to hand over to our Creator God today?

Originally posted 11/4/2011

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

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 sky is falling (or is that the cheesecake?)

The last time I made cheesecake, it fell on my daughter’s head.

True story.

We loaded up that brand new, never-before-used springform pan with cream cheese and sugar and eggs and all the yummy, gooey goodness of cheesecake batter.

I lifted up the hefty weight of this New York-style cheesecake and just as I made the move over her head and towards the kitchen, the bottom of the pan just collapsed and out ran the cheesecake all into her hair and down onto her forehead and back and hands.

Even after an emergency bath, she smelled delicious.

Their grandparents arrived for a visit and handed the girls hard hats to wear while baking, just in case mom decided to make cheesecake again.

So, I’m browsing through recipes for summer picnics and I see this cheesecake covered with cherries and consider the possibilities.

But I also consider my daughter’s reaction.

Cheesecake?  I hate cheesecake.  It’ll fall on my head.

As if every time I bake, she’s in the line of fire.  Or that every cheesecake ends in a messy implosion and a dessert shampoo.psalm46-1  Photo by Ruud Morijn

She is, in effect, terrified of cheesecake.  Or, to be more precise, afraid of being present while I’m baking cheesecake.

All this month, I’m pursuing the presence of Christ by enjoying the Creativity of our Creator God, and in between pictures of desserts and ingredient lists and recipe instructions, I’m thinking of what to do when the sky falls, the world caves in, or when the cheesecake unexpectedly slams down on your head.

Truly I have these terrors of my own, restless anxiety and sleep-stealing fears that leave me pacing before God’s throne long into the night.

Like Change: The way it shifts my life and maybe I’m tossed a little off-balance, all that routine and familiarity disturbed by the unexpected and unknown.

What is it about that unplanned phone call, the shifting of an expectation, the closing of a door, the altering of a plan?  It knocks me right off of my two solidly planted feet and I’m grabbing a hard hat for fear of the sky (or a cheesecake) falling onto my hapless self.

But change is one thing that’s constant in this life.

Here’s what’s also constant:  God’s presence.  His help.  His perfect plan.  His love.

The Psalmist said:

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
 (Psalm 46:1-2 ESV).

Because, after all, God didn’t just create this world and then let it go.  It’s still all in His hands.

So, I’m doing all this fighting, all this power-praying asking God to please, please, pretty please with a cherry on top, do not let things change….

But maybe I’m praying against the work He wants to do for me, and maybe even the work He wants to do in me.

Like those Jewish captives who had been carried off to Babylon and lived there under Nebuchadnezzar’s reign and then Beltashazzar’s.

Maybe they always longed for home and Jerusalem, but they lived day in and day out in a Babylonian city and under Babylonian laws.

Slowly that foreign city became home.

Then came those Medes and Persians… conquering the empire with a regime change, shaking up every ‘constant’ the people had in that day-in-and-day-out life.

What if Daniel had fought against it?  What if those righteous captives had asked God to please just keep things the same? What if they set up prayer vigils pleading with God to keep that conquering nation at bay?  What if they had clung to the known and rejected the unknown?

Even if they were captives, after all, at least they knew what this captivity was like.

But they would have missed out on the blessing God planned for them.

And so might I.

Long before He ever allowed Jerusalem’s walls to fall, long before Israel’s captivity began, God ordained the time it would end and that King Cyrus of the Medes and Persians would be the one to send His people back home.

He promised change and the change was for their benefit.

He promises this for me, too:

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18 NIV).

All these changes around me are so that He can do a changing work in me and transform me to be more like Jesus.

So, what do I want, after all?

Maybe I’ll need to wear a hard hat, and yet I’ll choose His presence, wherever that takes 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 ‘Create Beauty’?

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

 

 

 

When you can’t keep up with it all…maybe you’re not supposed to

My older girls picked up their knitting needles this week.

They have big plans of what they can make with one ball of yarn and two thick needles: Hats with pom poms to match stripey scarves for every family member and friend.

For now, I tell them: Keep it simple.  Practice the steps, row after row.  No need for fancy patterns or agendas.  Just stitch after stitch until they are even and right.026

We’ve corrected our fair share of lost stitches, tangled yarn and strangely elaborate knots.  Mostly, though, we’re fighting against extra.

I started my oldest girl out with 15 little loops and within 3 rows, she’d nearly doubled the length of her project.  I counted them out—27 stitches now. We counted out 5 stitches for my next daughter and she immediately increased that to 10.

It’s not purposeful, of course.  Just an inadvertent grabbing of yarn in the wrong place, slipping on two loops where there should be only one, until finally their project has doubled in size.  And if I let them continue unhindered, it’d triple and more.

So I pull out the row and  start them again.

This is how you grab just one loop at a time.  This is how you count your stitches after each row.

But it’s just so easy with momentary distractions and the way we pick up speed to do this, too.

This month, I’m learning to create in order to draw near to the presence of our Creator God.  As I pull out these knots of string, I think how God is at work in me.

He starts me out with 15 simple loops of yarn.  He establishes the rhythm and the pattern, and He measures out the resources so I’ll have enough for all I need.

I focus at first and watch each stitch carefully.

Then I begin to rush and think about other things.  People ask me questions.  I look away instead of on my project.

Somehow I’ve slipped on extra stitches.  God asked me to do 15.  Just 15.  So simple.  He gave me enough.

But now I have 30 and I’m frantically working, trying to keep up with it all.  I’m running out of resources and fretting over how I’ll ever be sufficient for all this need.

When I finally hand over the tangled mess to this patient and gracious God, He takes me back, eliminates the excess and starts me over again.  Just 15 stitches, Heather.  I only asked You to do these.  No more.  Nothing extra.  And I’ve given You all You need, more than enough, for this alone.

It’s busyness, of course, that rushes us into grabbing more.  We say “Yes” when He wants us to say “No.”  We feel pressured into volunteering and there’s the pride that convinces us that we can save the day.

Usually, it’s all good things: Bible studies, meetings, committees, volunteering and relationships.  Then we find ourselves doubling up those stitches again, and when we read those words of Jesus, they don’t even make sense.  How could He promise us this when we feel so worn?

 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV)

There’s another way, though, that those stitches sneak right on. It’s not busyness; it’s expectations.  We tell ourselves what a Good Mom, a Good Wife, a Godly Woman and a True Friend does.Picture by Vicktor Hanacek of PicJumbo

We’ve condemned ourselves right there, always trying to measure up to some perfect standard, tossing on stitches until we just collapse in failure and then we feel it: I’m a failure and a mess. I can’t keep up with it all, even these 15 stitches.  Not like “her,” so perfect and together.

But God didn’t ask us to be perfect.  Or to be like “her.”

He doesn’t impose impossible standards or withhold grace.

In the Message, the same verses in Matthew say:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly(Matthew 11:28-30 MSG).

It takes purposeful determination to protect the few stitches God’s entrusted to us, to fall into those unforced rhythms of grace rather than frantic rushing and condemnation.  No slipping on extra loops of string, not with busyness and commitments or expectations and burdensome requirements.

Protect what He’s asked You to do and do it well, with all Your heart and mind, knowing that He’s given you all you need for just this much and no more.

Originally published May 31, 2013

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

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

Is There a Shoemaker in the House?

So I wake up on Monday morning after a busy weekend….

For one thing, the string on the church piano broke in the middle of the worship service on Sunday…

I have meetings, events, appointments, and extra activities all week (adding “Call Piano Tuner” to the list)…

Then right before the bus comes, my daughter pops her foot into the sneaker and says, “Look, Mom, my shoe broke, but I can still wear it,” at which point she takes a step forward to demonstrate its viability as a workable shoe and the sneaker falls off her foot and plops to the floor….

So, I grab an extra pair, but the laces are knotted up tight….

And the school bus comes and picks up one daughter but the other one is still fiddling with the replacement shoe.

I’ve got this.  I rush the preschooler through her school preparation because she is at this point still standing there in her pajamas with un-brushed teeth and messy morning hair.

Then I pop the baby in the car seat (still in his pajamas, but who would know?), and expertly drive the oldest child to one school, the four-year-old (who is now dressed with her teeth cleaned and her hair in braided pigtails) to a different school where I arrive early (for once!!!) and the baby back home without losing my temper, my cool, or my driver’s license.

And then…

Then I feel compelled to hit that to-do list all determined and focused despite the wearing down from brokenness and need.

I could cry because it is hitting a little bit on the tender part of my soul still bruised a bit from weekend wear, but it’s also hitting a little on my sense of my humor.

Really?

A broken shoe?

How does that even happen?

It’s also hitting me here, too: thinking how life can trip us up with so much that’s unexpected.  You can plan and plan and make those lists and keep those agendas and then a sneaker breaks on a Monday morning and you better hope that all you have holding you together isn’t just a list you jotted down in a notebook with a blue pen.

You better hope you’re resting in Jesus.

Saturday, I was yanking mint out of my garden in patches.  Years ago, I planted this tiny pot of mint and now it’s everywhere.  As I pull up one sprig, a vine pops up from underneath the soil and I discover an underground network of mint, all connected and interwoven.mint

The depth, the connectedness, the strength is all hidden in the dirt, only revealed by the weight of my tugging.

And life, it yanks at us here or there, pulling at this little bit, trying to unravel what it sees.  Yet, we are to be connected deep, even in hidden ways far beneath the surface, to the Vine.

Jesus said:

 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing (John 15:4-5 NASB).

This ‘Abiding….” or “remaining” (as the NIV says), what does this mean for me this day, this Monday of unexpected breaking?

In The Message it reads:

Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.  I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing” (John 15:3-8 MSG).

Chris Tiegreen writes:

Presence is everything in the Christian life…The truth is that His Presence working within us is the key to everything and without Him we can do nothing.

Why?  Because all that is truly important, the obedience, overcoming trials, bearing fruit, navigating relationships and practicing spiritual disciplines changes essentially when I experience the Presence of Christ—-my attitude improves, my prayers deepen, my faith grows, my joy is renewed, passions re-kindle, service comes easy even on a broken Monday morning.

All because when hassles, bothers, broken shoes, minor annoyances and even true trials pull at me, they reveal more than some superficial root system that gives way at the slightest pressure.

They reveal the Vine.

And today, I’m holding on for dear life, but I’m still holding on.

Dear God, today it’s not chocolate or tea, a hug, kind words, or some encouragement from a friend that I need.  What I need is You.  I know this is true:  Apart from You, I can’t do anything.  Please “live in me.  Make Your home in me” and in the “intimate and organic” relationship that grows, help me to thrive in You. 

Do you have a crazy Monday morning story to share?  Do tell!

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 ‘Enjoy Beauty’?

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

When You Have to Squint Your Eyes to See the Beauty–a devotion from my garden

Sometimes you have to fight for the glory and squint your eyes tight to find the wonder.

Like today.

My daughter woke me up early.  She was ready for the day; I wanted to enjoy a little more night, and so the morning began with a headache, fatigue and maybe a not-so-cheerful attitude.by Alexandr Rozhkov;

Then, just as I began to settle into the day, I glanced up at the calendar at 7:58 and realized the heating and air conditioning repairman was coming between 8 and 8:30 a.m.  Oops, forgot that one.

He came at 8:20 and normally that time for me is for morning tea and long devotions, starting the week with God and then writing.

But how to be inspired and still with God, how to type out these words on the computer when he’s banging parts and dismantling pieces?  Then he calls out, “Ma’am?” and I flinch because I know it’s not to tell me good news.

My to-do list was long.  The laundry piled high.  The sink stacked with morning dishes.

But I’m fighting for this, so I open to Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg:

“God desires to captivate us not just with his handiwork but with Himself–displaying facets of His character, igniting us with His fiery love, awakening us to the intensity of His holiness” (11).

Captivate me, Lord.  Right here, this tiny person in this moment when all the mundane is pressing heavy on my heart and I’m just about suffocated from the stifling weight of it all.

Feinberg tells me that this is what God desires and I wonder: If I’m not feeling it, is it because I’ve shut Him down and crowded Him out?  Is He willing to reignite me and I’m unwilling to notice?

I flip through my Bible to Hebrews 12:28-29:

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

It starts with thanks, gratitude that anything that shakes apart the foundation of my day can’t touch the foundation of His kingdom, my faith, or eternity with Him–Not early mornings, interrupted routines, home repairs, not even the incessant grinding of the daily.

It requires worship grounded in reverence and awe because my God, Savior, Friend, and Lover of my Soul, is a Consuming Fire, and even on days when I’m just seeing the tiniest ember and flicker of that holy flame, He remains the same.

In Scripture, Elisha stood with his prophet-mentor, Elijah, and asked so boldly for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit (2 Kings 2:9).  So, when I read Elisha’s story, I expect the miracles all to be earth-shattering, all fire from heaven with awe and wonder.

It was Elijah, after all, who staged the showdown with the prophets of Baal, who predicted a long and devastating drought over the land and then foretold the rain that started as one tiny cloud as big as a man’s fist.  He went head-to-toe with Ahab and Jezebel until he was whisked away to heaven in a flaming chariot.

The double-portion of that Spirit must be pretty spectacular.

But when I read Elisha’s story, he made foul water fit to drink.  He cursed a group of taunting boys who called him “baldy.”  He gave oil to a poor widow, made some poisonous stew safe for consumption.  And when an ordinary worker dropped his ax in the lake, Elisha made the ax head float on the water.

It was everyday stuff, most of it.  He had a few moments, like raising a boy from the dead.  Overall, though, it seems so mundane.  So everyday.  He helped people eat and drink.  Helped them work and not have to trek to Home Depot for some new tools.

And maybe that’s the reminder here.  Maybe it takes even more faith to look for the power and spirit of God at work in the smallest of needs and the most everyday of circumstances.

Swamp milkweedI look out of the window over my kitchen sink while I wash the last cereal bowl and see the plants we bought the day before, still waiting to be planted in the dirt of our garden.  We went on a hunt for milkweed to attract monarch butterflies and came home with these two green pots.

They look like the smallest and plainest of dead sticks.  My daughter was skeptical.  Could this brown spindly stalk grow anything beautiful?  Is it even alive?

But today I’ve fought for the wonder and the glory.

Today, I’ve determined to plant and nurture the pitiful, the brown, the spindly, the weak, the seeming lifeless–and wait for God to cultivate and grow the glory and the beauty.

Yes, in my garden.  Yes, in my life and heart.

Captivate me, Lord, today.

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 ‘Enjoy Beauty’?

To read more Devotions from my Garden, you can click here!

Originally posted April 22, 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

Will Break for Beauty Because Eden Is What We Were Meant For

We took a day off for beauty.

We climbed into the minivan for a drive on a sunny, warm-but-not-too-warm day, passing horse farms and the river, watching sunlight burst through the tops of trees.

Sitting along the edge of the beach, we tipped over buckets of moistened sand to form sand castles.  Pine needles and lost feathers, bits of shell and pebbles smoothed by the waves became castle flags and decorations.

Then we walked and collected treasures washed ashore by the tide.

Children see treasures in ways we do not.  I picked up unbroken shells, shiny, smooth, etched with color and patterns.

My little one picked up massive clam shells covered in barnacles and sand, murky in color and awkwardly shaped.  She handed me slivers of broken shells and even tried putting fistfuls of sand in her treasure bucket.

It was beauty to her.

What is it about the seaside that brings peace to the soul?  Maybe it’s the rhythm of the waves, the comfort of knowing that the wave will come and another and another, in constant motion, totally faithful, reliable, trustworthy.

And that is our God.  He doesn’t wash over us and then pull back never to return again. He brings wave after wave of ever-coming, perpetual grace.  The world is an uncertain teeter-totter of a place, with unexpected terrors lurking around corners and surprises that drop us to the ground.

But God—He is faithful.  God—-He is always grace.  God—He is ever true.

That night, we raced home to eat dinner and become beautiful: Choosing outfits, doing hair.  The girls fought over bracelets.  We traveled to see the Ballet Magnificat, a professional Christian ballet company.

The music began.  Just instruments at first.  The dancers took to the stage and one lone female voice sang,“Praise the Lord, O my soul and let all that is within me praise His name.”

One ballerina stretched her arms high in worship.  Her fingers almost touched heaven she was so long and outstretched.

And I caught my breath at the total abandon in praise to a God so worthy.

That day, we took a break for beauty.  We paused and lingered long with friends and we filled our souls in the deep wells of nature and dance and worship.  It was like brushing against the curtain of heaven.

Our God did it on purpose, putting those first two human beings in a garden, and we long for that Eden even now.  He created us for that place of intimacy in His presence surrounded by beauty.  Stasi Eldredge says it here:

Beauty reminds us of an Eden we have never known, but somehow our hearts were created for.

Scripture reminds me that God is Himself beautiful:

One thing I ask from the Lord,
    this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
    and to seek him in his temple
(Psalm 27:4)

And God is a Creator of beauty:

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

In Captivating, Stasi Eldredge says:

Beauty is transcendent. It is our most immediate experience of the eternal (Stasi Eldredge).

God makes all things beautiful in time—and He has set eternity itself in our hearts.  We long for it, ache for the day when we see the transformation He intends, see the untainted beauty of a sinless world.ecclesiastes3

And so glimpses of beauty here and now stir our hearts for heaven, for eternal glory with Him.

In my 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, I’m breaking for beauty in the month of April, because, as Margaret Brownley writes,

Beauty puts a face on God and makes his presence known (Margaret Brownley, Grieving God’s Way).

I’m digging deep into garden soil.  I’m trekking through a botanical garden. I’m watching caterpillars form that chrysalis and then climb out as butterflies.  I’m listening to concerts and walking the halls of museums.

There has to be intentionality here.  We can get so distracted by that tyrannical urgent, so caught up in the rush and noise of the day.

After beauty fills you up, it too often spills out and sloshes over the sides of your heart every time there is rushing, stress, tension, worry, boredom, work, monotony. 

We must work hard to protect the memory and refill often by taking a break for beauty and by seeking the soul-filling glory of God’s presence.

Will you join me this month?

 

 

To hear the song by Kristene Mueller that began Ballet Magnificat‘s performance, you can click here or click Play on the video below from the blog.

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 ‘Enjoy Beauty’?

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

Finding Room to Breathe: A 12-month pursuit of the presence of Christ

I’ve waved the white flag and retreated to the kitchen table this morning.

It was the unexpected nature of the rush and stress that did me in and led to my defeat.  I woke up without major plans or a busy schedule, determined to soak in the joy of winter break for just a few more days.

But then ‘it’ happened.

And by ‘it,’ I don’t mean one crisis.  Not an accident or disaster or tragedy.  No, more like life trampling all over my garden of peace and tranquility.

Like four children all needing help at the same time, calling out “mom” (or the newborn equivalent thereof) in harmony from all four corners of the house.  Suddenly I was off on missions of finding and fixing and feeding and changing and breaking up fights.

And that, my friends, is when momma gets grumpy.  My vision of winter break rest turned into sorting through the cabinets and cleaning out drawers and discovering where children had hidden the missing top to my water bottle (behind the television cabinet) and the missing Xbox game (in the very back of the DVD cabinet) and various other long-lost treasures.

All before mom had her cup of tea and time with Jesus.

Have mercy.

Life can suffocate us at times, slam right into our sides and knock the very life-breath out of our bodies when we’re not looking.  Pretty soon we’re panting on the sidelines, injured, weary, and defeated.

Yet, Psalm 62 says that God is “solid rock under my feet, breathing room for my soul” (Psalm 61:1-2, MSG).

I need the reminder.

In a few days, I’ll be back to zooming around town in the minivan, picking up children, dropping off children, passing sandwiches to the kids in the back because we won’t make it home exodus33for dinner and coaching them on homework all from the driver seat as we bounce from school to ballet to church to play practice and back again.

And right there, in the middle of the ‘mess, noise, and busyness’ of life is where I need God to manifest His presence and to breathe life back into my hyperventilating soul.

God promised this to Moses:

The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14).

A promise like that might leave me in a blubbery mess of tearful gratitude and peace—His presence and the promise of rest.  Yes, Lord, Amen!!

The promise of God’s presence and rest didn’t come at the end of the journey or on the edge of Canaan either.  It was right there at a mountain in the middle of the wilderness.

So, Moses got a little bold.  Or a lot bold.

He said,

“Now show me your glory” (Exodus 13:18).

God did just that.

Here I sit at the beginning of a new year praying the same thing.  Please, Lord, show me Your glory on the mountain, in the wilderness, along the journey, in the everyday travels.  Let me know the heavy weight of Your presence as I go.

This year I’m choosing one word to focus my faith-journey and I’m making it a year-long pursuit.

I’ll be writing each month about how I’m pursuing God’s PRESENCE in a particular way.

Here’s what I’m thinking for each month (although I reserve the right to change my mind, move things around, alter, delete, and improve this list as time goes on!!)

  • January:  Be Still and Know
  • February:  Pray Simply
  • March: Unplug (Turning off TV, social media, and other distractions and tuning into God)
  • April: Enjoy beauty (Gardens, walks, nature, and more)
  • May: Create beauty (Dabble in the arts and get to know the nature of our Creator God)
  • June: Invest in Friendship
  • July: Retreat and regroup (Why we need to get away and how to make it happen)
  • August: Learn how to say ‘no’ (Because you can’t do everything)
  • September: Learn how and when to say ‘yes’ (Because you have to do some things)
  • October: Find sacred in the ordinary
  • November: Practice Sabbath-Keeping
  • December: Abandon perfection

Will you join me? 

Will you share with me in this pursuit of the PRESENCE of Christ?

I’d love for you to comment, write your own blog posts and share them with me, email me and give me tips, ideas, failures and success stories as we pursue His PRESENCE.

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 © 2013 Heather King

Weekend Walk, 02/11/2012

Hiding the Word:

My seven-year-old daughter likes to play the “When I’m 13 game.”

Oh, when will I be 13?  I’ll be able to do everything I ever wanted when I’m 13.  It’ll be so much better when I’m 13.  I’ll be able to babysit.  I’ll be old enough to take care of a dog.  It must be great to be 13!”

What is she thinking?  I’ve tried to explain many times that when she’s 13, what she’ll likely be saying is this:

Oh, I wish I were seven again.  Life was so much easier when I was seven.  School was simpler.  Relationships weren’t full of drama.  I didn’t have all this stress.  Oh, life was so perfect when I was seven.

Alas, she doesn’t believe me.

It reminded me, though, of something we read in Prisiclla Shirer’s Discerning the Voice of God, which we studied over the summer of 2011.  She wrote:

“God is the God of right now.  He doesn’t want us to regret yesterday or worry about tomorrow.  He wants us to focus on what He is saying to us and putting in front of us right now.  The Enemy’s voice will focus on the past and the future, but the voice of our God will focus on today.  God’s voice tells us what we can do now” (p. 85).

As Jesus said in the memory verse I’m choosing for this week:

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:33-34).

In the complete context of Matthew 6, Jesus tells us not to worry about what we’ll eat, drink or wear.  Seek Him.  Seek His kingdom.  Seek His righteousness.  He’ll take care of our needs.  It’s His promise to us.

Have you chosen a verse to memorize and meditate on this week?  I hope you post a comment below and share it with all of us!!

Weekend Rerun

Cultivating a Quiet Heart
  Originally Published 03/15/2011

“I’ve kept my feet on the ground, I’ve cultivated a quiet heart. Like a baby content in its mother’s arms, my soul is a baby content”
Psalm 131:1-2 (MSG)

I work from home at my computer so that I can take care of my three young daughters.  Mostly, my work days go something like this:

  • Get everyone settled and sit down at the computer to work.
  • Help child put clothes on her doll.
  • Sit down to work.
  • Get a drink for another child.
  • Sit down to work.
  • Spell “Pocahontas” for older daughter who is systematically drawing every princess she’s ever heard of.
  • Sit down to work.
  • Change baby’s diaper.
  • Sit down to work.
  • Break up fight between older girls who each want to be the same princess.
  • Sit down to work.
  • Get snack for children who declare that they are indeed starving and will die if they don’t eat something now instead of waiting for dinner.
  • Sit down to work.
  • Get lemonade for the children who forgot that they were also thirsty and not just hungry when they asked for a snack.
  • Sit down to work.
  • Look for a particular book for a child who swears she’s looked everywhere, including the bookshelf, and it has just simply disappeared into thin air.  Find the book on the bookshelf.
  • Sit down to work.

You get the idea.

Yesterday, I was working away and getting up every 20 seconds (perhaps an exaggeration, but it FELT like every 20 seconds), when my oldest daughter stood at my feet, appearing like a child in need.  So, I looked at her and sighed and waited for the request.  One more thing someone needed from me.  One more expectation to fill.  One more bit of help to give.

And she gave me a hug, placed a kiss on my cheek, said, “I love you, Mom” and walked away.

My baby does this all day long.  She plays and asks me for things and then at least two or three times an hour, she walks over to me and just lays her head down on my arm and waits for me to stroke her head and kiss her.  Then, she runs off again to dump out all the blocks and pull every book off the bookshelf as she plays.

I love my children and I love that I can be at home to help them when they need it and to give and receive kisses and hugs when all they ask for is affection.   Some days, it’s draining because it’s a job that involves giving, giving, and giving some more.   I know they’re kids who just need help and that’s okay.  I would much prefer they ask me for help than find my house torn apart from their efforts to do things on their own.  Still, sometimes I think a few minutes of quiet, uninterrupted time sitting in one place sounds luxurious.

That hug and kiss from my daughter yesterday reminded me of my relationship with God.   So many days, I go to Him in need.  I ask Him for help, encouragement, intervention, provision, healing.  All day long, I pray for myself, my family and for others.  Thankfully, God is a far more patient parent than I am.  He never sighs with fatigue and frustration when I show up before His throne again with another request.

Yet, how precious are the moments when I come into God’s presence not asking for Him to help me with anything, but just pleased to have His company.

Psalm 131:1-2 says:  “I’ve kept my feet on the ground, I’ve cultivated a quiet heart. Like a baby content in its mother’s arms, my soul is a baby content” (MSG).  In the NIV, this description is of a “weaned child with its mother.”

The image here is of a baby content to be with her mother, not because she’s looking for food or the fulfillment of a need, but just because the mother’s very presence brings comfort.

It’s part of the maturing process in this Christian walk.  God weans us so that we don’t just look to Him for help, but we respond “to Him out of love . . . for God does not want us neurotically dependent on Him but willingly trustful in Him” (Eugene Peterson).  It’s not that God no longer cares for us or sees our need.  Instead, He’s asking us to trust His love for us so much that we can lay our burdens at His feet and leave them there, choosing to focus on God Himself rather than our troubling circumstances.  We see His love and not our empty bank account.  We look to His faithfulness and not our illness.  We focus on His might and not our broken relationships.

In his book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson goes on to write, “Choose to be with him; elect his presence; aspire to his ways; respond to his love.”

This reminds me of Psalm 42:1-2 “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?” (NIV).  It’s a cry for communion and relationship rather than a desperate plea for help.  It’s a call to enjoy God’s presence, not for what He does for us, but for who He is.

“Father, I thank You that You are so patient with me, hearing each of my requests and responding to me with lovingkindness and compassion.  I’m sorry for not spending more time just enjoying Your presence instead of meeting with You in order to get something for myself.  I trust in You to care for me and all these needs that weigh on my heart and I put them aside in order to commune with You and give You praise.  I choose to cultivate a quiet and contented heart.”

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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