Why I Am Blaming Gloves for Missing the Bus Twice in One Week

We missed the bus two days in a row this week.

Yes, we did.

I think we typically only miss the bus once or maybe twice in a whole school year.  If that.

So, twice in a week like this?

That’s crazy talk.

I know what you’re thinking—-that mom is seriously failing at getting her kids out the door.psalm 62

Maybe so.

Of course, it doesn’t help that the bus showed up early.

Or that it’s absolutely beyond all limits of seriously c-c-c-c-cold here in Virginia for November (all those of you from the north can pick on me for whining later), so it takes us like 20 minutes longer to get ready in the morning than it did when the kids could just pick up their backpacks and head out the door in short-sleeved shirts.

We missed the bus the first day because, after just a few times of needing to wear gloves this year, my kids had already lost every pair of gloves we possessed.

I drove them to school and then spent the rest of the day digging out purple, teal, black, white, and pink gloves from every crevice, cranny, and pocket of my home.

So the next day, I laid out their hats, coats, and gloves in advance.   That’s wisdom: learning from your mistakes when your kids missed the bus last time (as in yesterday).

Then we had a miss-hap with the gloves.

Seriously, who designed these things and why do children’s fingers always stick together like they’ve been drizzled with crazy glue when they need to go into gloves?

The bus drove past our house while I stood at the front door trying to push my five-year-old’s fingers apart so they would fit into the frustrating finger holes.

Please can it just be spring already?

The truth is, I am a slave to the bus route.

And I am a slave to the school bells.

Also, the after school activity schedule, the church service and meeting times, my infant son’s naps, my kids’ bedtime, the alarm clock, doctor’s appointments and meetings.

My life is shackled and chained by the calendar, the agenda, the to-do list and the daily schedule.

I’m a slave to the expectations and needs of others.

I’ve spent this month studying about the Sabbath, reading about the Sabbath, and changing my life so I actually keep the Sabbath.

I’ve focused completely on how God created the Sabbath on the seventh day.  Rest is part of the perfection and completion of His creation.  It is a way for us to re-connect with our Creator God.  That’s what God said in Exodus 20:8-11.

But I read this also and find there’s something more:

“Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm.  That is why the Lord your God has commanded you to keep the Sabbath day” (Deut. 5:15).

In her book, Breathe, Priscilla Shirer writes that:

The Israelites had never developed the discipline of declining.  They had been trained to acquiesce and comply.  But now the Sabbath would help them remember they were free.  Free to say ‘no.’  Free to rest.  Free to no longer be controlled by that which they were previously mastered.  Free to enjoy their relationship with Yahweh.

The Sabbath reminds me that Christ also has set me free from slavery.

For one day a week, I choose to please Him and Him only.  I remember that my value isn’t based on productivity.  I am not what I do.  I am who He created me to be.

Priscille Shirer also writes:

He loved them simply because they were His.  He had chosen them.  That was enough.

Egypt demanded performance.

God offered rest.

It doesn’t matter how many times my kids missed the bus this week.  Or whether I caved in and bought my child mittens instead of gloves.

I will never perform enough, produce enough, or be enough to earn His love and affection; but He gives it to me abundantly anyway.

Sabbath reminds me of this: He loves me.

Sabbath speaks to a weary heart and says, “You’re free.  You don’t have to do and do and do. Just rest in Him.”

Do you ever feel like a slave to the to-do list, the calendar, the schedule or other people’s expectations?

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

 

That’s What I Want

I’m a tiny bit of a Wal-Mart celebrity.

It’s eight years of working with our small-town church’s Vacation Bible School …plus eight-and-a-half years of being mom to young kids who have too many friends to fit the playdates into the schedule…plus years of singing songs with kids in our church’s Children’s Church…plus some children’s community theater work …and Voila: Wal-Mart Celebrity Status.

Pushing my cart around the store, totally focused on comparing coupons with the 50+ options on the shelves, trying to keep up with the shopping list and the meal plan, I’ll still know it’s happening.

A child recognizes me.

Sometimes it’s a whisper, “Mom, I know her!  She’s from ____!”

Maybe it involves finger pointing or bashful waving.

Occasionally, I’ll be just about tackled down in a football hug.

My favorite is when they recognize me but they can’t remember why, so they are simultaneously trying to get my attention while looking a tiny bit confused, a lot shy, and maybe even socially panicked if I actually wave back.

Oh, fame.

But this isn’t really fame, of course, not in the worldly sense of paparazzi, limos, mansions, TV commercials, bestsellers and autograph lines.

This is just kids excited that you made a difference in their lives in the way only a rural, small-town church girl and momma can.

Maybe it’s pride, the world, Satan, or just ugly sin, but something drives us so often to push and shove our way to the front row of this crowded planet.  To be recognized.  To be the best.  To gain followers and have that spotlight track us around a stage.

But the world is a crowded and noisy place with so many people clamoring and shouting in order to be heard over all the ruckus.

Mostly our motives aren’t deep down evil.  What we want, really and truly, is to make a difference for God.  We want to be part of His ministry, be His hands, His feet, His voice.

We want to do something “Great” for God, believing that God has called us to “Great” things and is going to give us a “Great” ministry.

Yet, “Great” to God so often requires humble invisibility and sometimes painful but unrecognized giving.

Jesus said:

whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:43-45 NIV).

“Great” means service, even slavery.  It means self-sacrifice so extreme it’s life-demanding.

What if “Great” means bringing up Godly children who serve the Lord into adulthood?

Or building into a strong marriage that lasts and models Christ’s covenant love and faithful commitments to a world bruised and beaten by the lies of selfish passion and cheap vows?

Or sticking with that tiny Sunday School class or small group year after faithful year?

Or being content with Wal-Mart Celebrity Status or even less recognition than that?

My husband says it:

Desire Impact, Not Fame.gideon

Impact.  Aretha Franklin belted out a plea for R-E-S-P-E-C-T, but Impact is what I want.

Not glory for me; just glory for Him.  Not attention for me; just praise and honor for Him.

And impact doesn’t start by reaching out to crowds and arenas and the world en masse.

Impact begins with obedience right in our homes, churches and communities.

If God takes us on beyond that, Amen.  So be it.  God’s will be done.

If He doesn’t, still it is yes and Amen.

In her study, Gideon, Priscilla Shirer notes that Gideon’s first assignment as God’s Mighty Warrior was to:

Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah polebeside it (Judges 6:25 NIV)

His work began in his own home, not leading the Israelite army into battle against the Midianites.

And Abraham’s calling didn’t begin as founder of a nation.  Instead, God said:

For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just (Genesis 18:19).

For Gideon, for Abraham…for us, that means focusing on the everyday, the invisible, the humbling, the self-sacrificing, the mundane, and the small and always, in all things, giving glory to Him.

As Priscilla Shirer writes:

What lies ahead in your journey is not nearly as critical as where you are right now…your greatest impact will be done here—in the ordinary rhythms of your daily living (Gideon, p. 63).

That is where impact begins.

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

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Rigging Candy Land

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
   don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
   he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all
(Proverbs 3:5-6 MSG).

When my kids were younger, I used to rig the Candy Land cards.

Not so they could win, you understand, because I don’t believe in just letting a child win at games.

I simply hated the cruelty of the setback.  The thing about Candy Land is that you could be two rainbow-colored squares away from the magic candy castle and then draw the card for the Gingerbread Man.

At first, this seems harmless enough.  Who doesn’t want the Gingerbread Man?  Then you realize that it’s just evil fate and lessons in the futility of life sugar-coated and handed to your three-year-old child.

That’s because the Gingerbread Man is all the way back at the beginning of the game.

So, you have to watch this sweetly innocent toddler who was an inch away from cheering in victory move her red Candy Land piece all the way back to a position of certain defeat.

Sometimes life seems just as sadly confusing with unexpected twists and turns and a few disappointments and setbacks.

Yet, surely these are lessons best learned when you’re a little older and wiser?

My solution was simple.  As I shuffled the cards before setting up the game, I made sure the dreaded Gingerbread Man and the peppermint stick guy and sometimes even the gumdrop were in the front of the stack.

Thus, anyone who drew one of those cards would never have to fall back more than a few squares.

Sometimes I wish God would rig the cards every once in a while so life never involved steps backwards or feeling stuck in place (on something less soothingly delicious as a licorice stick).

While He’s at it, wouldn’t it be nice if He gave the game board a big yank and straightened the path?  No more zigzags across the board.  Geometry tells us the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  How about a straight line, God?

Yes, it’s true, sometimes the directions God takes us and the interruptions, setbacks, and seemingly pointless diversions we experience just don’t make sense.

In her book Nehemiah: A Heart that Can Break, Kelly Minter shared: “…I have a friend who regularly says to me, ‘Lean not Gal!’  As in, ‘Lean not on your own understanding, but all your ways acknowledge Him, ‘Gal!'” (p. 97).

I love this.  I certainly have the tendency to lean on my own understanding and raise a ruckus of discontentment when God leads me in unexpected directions.

Jonah also needed someone to tell him, “Lean not, Guy!” when he, a highly successful, well-respected prophet of encouragement to God’s holy people got God’s disturbing message: Go preach repentance to an enemy nation that has persecuted and killed your neighbors and family friends.

The disciples similarly needed a “lean not” reminder when Jesus told them they were going up to Jerusalem where He would be persecuted, imprisoned and crucified.

In the same way, Paul challenged his friends and followers to “lean not” when he traveled to Jerusalem, despite being warned that he would be placed in chains and taken captive there (Acts 21).

Jonah, the famous runaway, tried to avoid the path that didn’t make sense.

What if he had succeeded? Nineveh would have missed out on experiencing what “many historians cite …as the greatest revival in human history” (Priscilla Shirer, Jonah, p. 114).

In fact:

When Jonah chose to walk in obedience to the word of the Lord, the result was a harvest of amazing fruit he’d probably never seen coming.  Not just one community in the city or even a handful of the city’s important people believed in God.  Every citizen of Nineveh, from the greatest to the least, immediately believed.  Conviction was so complete that even the animals were made to participate in the government-mandated fast.  ‘Even the great Apostle Paul never experienced anything comparable to what Jonah saw.  Paul never saw an entire city turn to God'” (Shirer, p. 118-119).

Yes, and without Jesus’ journey to the cross, we would not have the resurrection or a plan for salvation.

And if Paul chose the easier road away from Jerusalem, he would never have preached about Christ in Rome—even to Caesar himself (Acts 28).

It’s frightening not to know exactly where we’re going.  It’s terrifying not to know what will happen when we get there.

It’s disappointing when God asks you:
to step aside
to stop
to walk away
to turn around
to go back
to take a break
to cease activity
and to put aside our own plans and visions and understanding of how this crazy life should work out and make sense.

Yet, even when we spend some time standing still or making the disheartening trip apparently backwards, we can trust that God has a plan—a better plan (yes, even better than the magical candy castle!) and maybe a surprising plan (to us, not to Him)—as long as we obey.

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.

The Grand Reveal—Summer Reading At Its Best!!

There’s something innately satisfying to me about list-making.  Everything in my life can be a chaotic jumble, but setting pen to paper and filling lines of a simple spiral notebook eases my tension.

I’ve always been a list-maker.  List of books I’m reading and another list of books to read.  List of classes to take.  List of cleaning projects and a list for writing projects.  List of summer plans (typed up in Excel and charted out with space for recurring activities, day-trips and special events).  Grocery shopping lists.  To-do lists.  Song lists.

My brain essentially exists on paper.

It’s little surprise then that one of my favorite activities is making a summer reading list.  It’s something I enjoy almost as much as actually reading the books!!  Some of you shared with me your top choices, so here is our joint compilation of book recommendations.  I’ve already read some, but others are sitting on my shelf waiting for their turn.

You can always click on the Bookshelf page on the blog for a list of what I’ve been reading and for book reviews.

You can also comment on this post with your own summer reading ideas.  It’s never too late to add to the collection and it is one of my great joys to hear from you!!!!

Bible Studies:  Looking for a study to do over the summer?  Consider one of these!

Non-Fiction–Christian Living:

Non-Fiction–Books on Marriage:

  • Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs: Hands-down, no contest my favorite book on marriage.  I’ve recommended it to so many struggling couples because it so accurately identifies two huge pitfalls in most relationships, and (no surprise) it comes straight from Scripture.
  • The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God by Timothy Keller: This is the best marriage book I’ve ever read for singles.  As a tool for those already married, it offers a few practical insights to address problems.  But, the majority of Keller’s time is spent talking about marriage theory—as a covenant relationship—and why God’s ideas about marriage are so good, so it’s a fantastic tool for those deciding how to behave before marriage, why to get married, and what to expect when you say, “I do.”
  • The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie O’Martian: I love praying through these prayers for my husband.  My copy is worn to pieces!
  • The Power of Prayer to Change your Marriage by Stormie O’Martian: For marriages that are struggling, this is my go-to recommendation for prayer ideas.  This book specifically prays through 14 major threats to lasting marriages.

Biography:

  • Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas: This biography of the famous German theologian who led the German church in a resistance to Hitler does more than just tell facts about his life.  It completely altered my perspective and understanding of the Christian fight against the Nazi regime and informed my theology.
  • Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce by John Piper: This is another biography that can change how you live by reading how someone else lived.  William Wilberforce, the great English politician who led the nation’s fight to abolish slavery also influenced the British church’s involvement in issues of social justice and showed how you can serve God wherever he has placed you, not just by entering into full-time ministry.

Fiction:

  • Safely Home by Randy Alcorn: I’m not normally a Christian fiction connoisseur, but this one came at your recommendation and I’m excited to read it.  I looked up the reviews on Christianbook.com and people were saying it was a “life-changing” read.  Even Jesus believed in the power of story to change lives!
  • If you’re looking for some classic literature to dig into over the summer, can I recommend one of my most favorites (I have so many!!)?  I’m a Dickens fan and my favorite had always been Bleak House.  A few years ago, though, I read Little Dorrit and it is now a rival for my top spot.  With all of Dickens’s normal satire on class politics and social injustice, it’s more importantly a book about imprisonment and how even when we are physically free, we can be chained by our past and destroyed by shame and the incessant worry that others might discover the truth about us.

So, whether you’re reading in the car on vacation trips and traveling, kicked back by the pool or the beach with a good book, or flopped on your sofa during a summer storm, I hope there’s a book or two in here you can enjoy this summer!

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

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Weekend Walk, 03/10/2012

Hiding the Word:

We’ve returned home after a long and exciting family day at our area Awana games.  Our two oldest girls competed in Sparks-A-Rama for the first time.  We cheered them on from the bleechers as they popped balloons, dodged balls, and ran like lightning-ish around the gym floor.

Our coaches and the kids worked hard for weeks to practice the games, to learn the rules, and to develop discipline, listening skills, teamwork and kindness.

I was so proud of our team. Not only that, but I loved the sweet cheerleading of my youngest daughter as she sat in the stands and picked her sisters out from the crowd.  Whether they were racing or sitting on the line while another team played, Catherine didn’t stop yelling, “Go, Toria! Go Lauren!”

We all need people in the stands cheering us on, whether we’re in the thick of the battle or resting for a few quiet moments.  God has commissioned us all with pom poms and asked us to call out our words of praise, perseverance, and encouragement for others.

So, that’s the verse that’s on my heart for the week.  It’s a challenge to each of us to be the cheerleader that someone else needs.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NIV).

Weekend Rerun:

The Giving of Courage
Originally Published 04/27/2011

 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing,
but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 20:24-25 

My sweet baby girl is my cheerleader.  I finish putting the clothes in the dryer and she claps her hands excitedly for me.  I change her diaper; she shouts yay!  yay!  and applauds with enthusiasm.   I drop the last of her toys into the basket and she does a happy dance and showers me with praise.  When I slide the last puzzle piece into place with her, she cheers and shouts.  If you spent the tiniest bit of time in my home, you’d think I won an Olympic medal every hour all day long because my “crowd goes wild” just that often.  My little crowd of one tiny, joyful cheerleader.

Has someone been a cheerleader for you before? 

You sit tired in the pew at church after the rush of Sunday morning preparation, but you made it and all your children sit next to you with clean clothes on.  Small victories.  Then a comforting hand reaches across your shoulder and a friend tells you, “Great job.  You’re such a great mom.”

You push your cart through the grocery store and try to efficiently and frugally shop all while monitoring the arms and legs of your various kids and periodically reminding them to use “inside voices,” when an unknown woman whispers to you, “Your children are so well-behaved.”

You pour yourself out into the ministry you know God has called you to and yet there are those moments and days when you wonder if it really matters, if it does any good, if anybody is blessed by it, if it’s worth the time and effort you spend on it.  Then, you sort through the bills after collecting your mail and find buried in there a card from a friend, a note of appreciation and thanks, a prayer, a verse.

You’ve been struggling.  Life is hard.  You don’t know what decisions to make.  You’re hurting and overwhelmed.  Then an email arrives and a friend says, “I’m praying for you.”

God uses others to bring us these messages of hope and encouragement at just the right moments in our lives, filling needs we can’t even always identify. It’s one of the reasons He designed us to travel together—He knows our hearts sometimes need this cheerleading from others.  When we stray from the group, when we go off on our own and try to live faith solo, we are easy prey for attack.  The Israelites learned this on their journey out of Egypt: “Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt.  When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God” (Deuteronomy 25:17-18, NIV).

If your heart is weary and in need of some encouragement today, look to your right and your left for your group; be sure that you are connected and not lagging behind.  Perhaps the first step needs to come from you in a search for the Christian community that will walk alongside you and encourage you along the journey to the Promised Land.

But you can also ask God for the refreshing your heart needs.  He knows exactly what will fill your spirit, giving you strength to overcome fatigue, guidance when you need direction, laughter when your heart lacks joy.  As the Israelites journeyed in the wilderness, God led them to an oasis: “They came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms, and they camped there beside the waters” (Exodus 15:27).    Priscilla Shirer writes: “‘Twelve springs of water’ to match the twelve tribes of Israel.  What a great illustration of God’s overwhelming care and specific concern for His people.  He knows exactly what it takes to refresh you.”

He is the shepherd who knows His sheep.  “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,  he refreshes my soul” (Psalm 23:2-3).  Sometimes we sheep feel the hunger and thirst; we know we are empty and in need of filling, but we depend on a Shepherd to guide us to the perfect place for refreshing and provision.

And when He has led us beside the waters so perfect and the green pastures so filling, we have a testimony to share with others, a story to help them along the way as well.  Like the Psalmist, we declare:

“Return to your rest, my soul,
for the LORD has been good to you.
For you, LORD, have delivered me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living” (Psalm 116:7-8).

We who have received encouragement, in turn encourage others through our testimony.  This encouraging truly is the giving of courage, placing it into the heart of another.  Isn’t that what this cheerleading does? It renews our strength so that we persevere and press on.  God asks us to do this for one another, to stand on the sidelines of a race and cheer, shout, and applaud for the runners: Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NIV).

How can you be a cheerleader for someone else today?

*********************************************************************************************************

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

Two steps forward and two steps back (or so it seems)

This was an unfortunate setback.

A few weeks ago, my husband gently suggested that it may be time for a serious attempt at potty training my two-year-old.

Now, to understand how I felt about this I first have to tell you potty training my two older girls was no easy task.  In fact, it’s fair to say that I’ve never felt as much like a failure in my life as when I was pleading with a toddler just to sit on the potty chair.

I laid awake at night designing reward charts and incentive plans.
I prayed for help from Almighty God so that my kids would be ready for preschool.
I bought books, movies, stickers, M&Ms, toys, and more to bribe them into success.
I avoided all moms who proudly announced their genius 18-month old had been perfectly trained with absolutely no effort in all of a day.

But my husband is a good husband and I’m a good wife.  So, when he asked me to start potty training my toddler, I plunged into what I was sure would be months and months of misery, stress and clean-up.

I pulled out the trusty movie, Potty Power.  I explained underwear to my daughter.  Every 15 minutes, I picked her up and carried her to the bathroom.

And a miracle happened.  A real live, genuine miracle of God.

She figured it out.  She wanted to learn.  She graduated to underwear in a matter of days.  I bet God never had anyone thank Him so much for help potty training her child.

And then.

Then there was the setback.  One week of sickness kicked my baby girl back into Pull-Ups and made her absolutely terrified of a trip to the bathroom.  Now my sanity is loosely held together by a can of Resolve and a bottle of Febreze.

I was discouraged.  She was scared and confused.  We’re baby-stepping our way forward, hoping to regain lost ground.

Have you ever encountered a setback that left you dazed, uncertain, and full of fear?

Perhaps you stepped out in obedience to what you believed was God’s call, but circumstances shifted, obstacles arose, and you’re not reaching the goal.  Perhaps you’ve even begun to question whether you heard God clearly and made the right decision in the first place.

Sometimes God’s plan just doesn’t make sense to us.

For the Israelites leaving slavery in Egypt, the most logical route to the Promised Land was straight along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.  After a few battles with the Philistines, the Isrealites thought they’d march right into Canaan after no more than a month-long journey.

God had other plans.  Exodus 13:17 tells us: “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, ‘Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.'”

Sometimes God takes us the long way around for our own benefit.  In her book One in a Million, Prisicllar Shirer writes that “the wilderness is often safer than the alternative” (p 73).  God chose the wilderness for His people.  Maybe He’s chosen it for you, as well, for your protection and personal growth.

Even after the Israelites followed the pillars of cloud and fire in the direction God had chosen to take them, there were still setbacks.  In Exodus 14:2, God said, “Tell the people of Israel to turn back.”

Turn back?

God led them one way only to turn them around and march them off in a different direction?  Did it seem like God had momentarily lost His compass in the desert?

And yet, this turning back placed the Israelites on the banks of the Red Sea and the only way across now was through His miraculous deliverance.

He turned them around so that He could save them.

So, what do we do as we make confusing desert tracks in the wilderness in our efforts to follow God’s lead?

We could give up.  We could question our listening skills.  We could doubt God’s leadership.  We could stomp off and follow our own course.

Or we could remain focused on our goal and the passion God has placed in our hearts.  That’s the only way the Israelites made it to the Promised Land.  It’s the only way we’ll receive all that God has promised us.

It’s also the only way Nehemiah saw the walls of Jerusalem rebuilt.  Kelly Minter in her book Nehemiah: A Heart That Can Break, writes:

“After verbal assaults, physical threats, discouraged laborers, abuses of power and economic distress, Nehemiah never diverted his focus from the wall.  The process may have been slowed and altered as a result of enemies and wayward citizens, but the goal never changed.”

In fact, Nehemiah himself writes, “I also persevered in the work on this wall” (Nehemiah 5:16, ESV).

He continued to build despite threats, fear, confusion, discouragement, distractions and disappointments.  He continued to build despite setbacks.   He never stopped placing brick on top of brick on top of brick in obedience to God.

What has God asked you to build?  Choose today to place another brick on this wall instead of giving up because of obstacles and disappointments.  Choose to “persevere in the work on this wall.”

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

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Weekend Walk, 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.”

*****************************************************************************************************

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

Online Bible Study: Week Eight (Chapter 15)

Ladies, we have made it to the end of our study of Priscilla Shirer’s Discerning the Voice of God and I’m so thankful for the chance to walk with you for this summer.  I urge you to take the time to comment to this post some time this week and talk about your overarching thoughts of this book or study and what God has been doing in your heart and mind these last few weeks.

For those of you catching up, these pages will remain open and available for you to go back and comment as you read each section.  We don’t want to miss what you have to say.

My small group will be starting a new book in September called Stumbling Into Grace: Confessions of a Spiritually Clumsy Woman by Lisa Harper.  In it, she discusses topics like fear, forgiveness, the importance of community, resting, being less critical and yet more honest, contentment and dependence on God.

I won’t be formalizing that into an official Online Bible Study format, but I will be following along the topics of the book with posts of my own here in this space.  So, I hope if you can’t join in my small group, you can grab a copy of the book wherever you are and read along with us.  I think you’ll enjoy it!

And, for those of you going to Women of Faith this coming weekend, you’ll get to see Lisa Harper on stage at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC!  I can’t wait!

My Thoughts

We have a well problem at my house.

Also a but problem.  And yes, I spelled that right.

I say, “Girls, it’s time to clean up.  Victoria, you put away the dolls.  Lauren, you put away the books.”

And I hear:

Well . . . she was the last one playing with them so she has to clean it up.

But playing with that wasn’t my idea; it was hers.”
Well . . . this is too much for me to clean up all by myself!”

But I’m not ready to stop playing.  I want to play some more later.”

It’s a well and but problem if ever I’ve heard one.

I’ll admit it.  God could likely say the same about me.  Maybe about you also?  God speaks to my heart through His Word, through others, through the heavy urging and impression of the Holy Spirit and I say:

But, I don’t want to stop doing this.  I’ve been doing it for years.  I enjoy it.  I’m good at it.  I’m used to it.  I’m comfortable and (this is the ringer), who else is going to do it if I stop?”

or

Well . . . you may want me to do that, but I’m scared and I don’t know how it’s all going to work out.  I’m not experienced enough.  I don’t see how doing this is going to matter in the long run.  What if I fail and mess it up?  What if I heard You wrong and I wasn’t supposed to do it after all?”

We say we want to hear the voice of God.  We long to know what He sounds like and desire spiritual discernment.

That’s what we say.  Yet sometimes we’re desperately pleading from God to hear His voice and then when He speaks, we argue with Him.  So, perhaps this waiting time, this sitting silent before a currently silent God, is more about our willingness to obey than our ability to hear.

Maybe He’s not speaking because He knows we’re not ready to obeyMaybe He’s waiting for our hearts to stop “well-ing” and “but-ing” and instead say to Him, “I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands” (Psalm 119:60).

Like Abraham, we should obey “immediately,” “the very same day,” and “early the next morning”  (Genesis 15:10, 17:23, 22:3).

Are you an early riser when it comes to obeying God’s voice?  Or are you more of a lingerer, a wait until it’s comfortable and makes sense, wait until the provision comes, wait until You can’t bear the heaviness of the Spirit any longer kind of child?

Choose to obey in advance of the command.  Set your heart on obedience.  It is the most precious worship to our God, more precious than any sacrifice you could lay at His feet.  “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22).

Chapter Outline:

Chapter Fifteen: The Obedient Response

  • On p. 174, she notes that “God does not speak simply to be heard.  He speaks to be obeyed.”  She goes on to say that if we’re not willing to commit to obedience, He may very well choose not to speak to us.
  • She notes that people who always have an “escape plan” are called “double-minded” in James 4:8.  On p. 177, she encourages you to check your heart for double-mindedness if you aren’t hearing from God.

Your Thoughts:

  • Do you have an example of a time you obeyed God even when it didn’t make sense or seemed silly or confusing, and He rewarded your obedience?
  • How quickly do you tend to obey God’s voice?  Has a delay in obedience ever been costly for you?
  • Do you have any quotes, verses or passages that were your favorite in the conclusion of the book?
  • Have you changed anything in your spiritual walk as a result of this study?
  • What’s the most important concept or thought that you’ll take away from this book?

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 © 2011 Heather King

Online Bible Study: Week Seven (Chapters 13 & 14)

Welcome to week seven in the study of Priscilla Shirer’s Discerning the Voice of God.  I applaud you all for sticking with us this summer as we read through her book together.  I know you’re busy; I know you have a million other things vying for attention.  And yet, you have set aside time for this book and I am praying for God’s blessings for you as a result.

If I can give one piece of encouragement, it’s don’t give up!  Don’t leave the book half-read or this study partly done.  If you’ve fallen behind, please jump back in as you are able because I don’t want you to miss some of these great chapters at the end.  You can comment on any older post as you catch up on the reading.

My Thoughts:

“Hello. Thank you for calling heaven, where your eternal destiny is secure.  Our menu options have recently changed . Please listen closely to all of the options before making a selection.

Para Espanol, por favor pulse dos.

Please speak or press your 10-digit salvation account number.

Thank you!  Did you know that you can access God’s perspective on many things at any time from the comfort of your own home?  Your heavenly user guide or Bible is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

To check your good deeds account, please press one.
To request forgiveness, please press two.
For automated guidance about your account questions, please press three.
For doctrinal information, please press four.
For help with health, finances, and relationships, please press five.
For all other prayer requests, please press six.

If this is an emergency, please hang up and call your pastor.

To repeat this menu, please press zero.  If you would like to speak to a customer representative, please press nine now.

All of our customer representatives are currently busy.  Due to abnormally large call volume, your wait may be delayed.  Please hang on the line and we’ll be with you shortly.

Elevator music.  Cheerful ads.  More music to which you drum your fingers.  The doodles on your paper have now progressed from swirls and cubes to intricate designs and flowers.

We’re sorry.  All of our customer representatives are currently busy.  Please hang on the line and we’ll be with you shortly.”

I’ve been on hold with companies a lot lately and the routine is the same with each call.  Press buttons.  Answer questions.  Listen to annoying music and assurances that they will be with you as quickly as possible.

Priscilla Shirer writes this week that God’s “entire goal, since the beginning of time, is to have a personal, intimate, loving fellowship between the two of you.”  That means that He longs for us to commune with Him all the time about everything we’re facing and He responds to us both by listening and answering with love and grace.

He isn’t putting us on hold.  He isn’t creating go-betweens to filter out calls until we really prove we need to talk to the Supervisor on Duty.  He wants to spend time in relationship with us both in the times that we experience joy and the moments we feel pain and He’s always listening as we cry out to Him.

All that we experience is subject for prayer.  In her study on Daniel, Beth Moore notes that Paul encourages us to pray and give thanks “in every situation” (Philippians 4:6).  We’re compartmentalizers some times.  We think, this I can handle, but this I can’t so I’ll pray about it  This I can think through, but this I’m lost on so I’ll pray about it.  This is too small to pray about, but this is big enough to mention in the Sunday School prayer time. This the doctor will answer, but this I’m going to have to leave to God.

There’s not some stuff that fits into a God category and other stuff that doesn’t.  In the sorting bins of our needs, emotions, and thoughts, there’s just one basket and it’s got a big fat label on it marked “God’s.”  Praise God that He is responsive, loving, gracious, and accessible.

Chapter Outlines:

Chapter 13: A Fatherly Voice

  • God has a personal message for us and we cannot assume that He has the same plan for others that He has for us.  Obviously, on basic doctrinal issues, on the matters of sin that His Word clearly addresses, the standard is consistent.  But, on questions of personal choices–who to marry, where to work, whether to work or stay home, and more, we must remember that we “run the risk of becoming legalistic and placing other believers in bondage” if we believe what God has told us applies to everyone (p. 153).
  • God’s voice may be convicting, but it is not condemning.  He doesn’t harp on your sins of the past.  “He desires to bring healing and restoration by forgiving my sin and throwing it into the sea of forgetfulness” (p. 155).

Chapter 14: A Challenging Voice

  • God isn’t always talking about how to make us feel comfortable.  In fact, He’s pretty frequently asking us to step out of comfort and into faith.
  • The quote from Oswald Chambers on p. 163 is pretty challenging: “Have you ever heard the Master say something very difficult for you? If you haven’t, I question whether you have ever heard Him say anything at all.”
  • We may feel ill-equipped for the task God has called us to, but “it is through your inability that He reveals His power” (p. 164).

Your Thoughts:

  • What were your favorite, quotes, passages or Scriptures from these two chapters?
  • Have you ever made a choice that you knew was God’s will for you, but also knew it wasn’t God’s will for everyone?
  • Do you ever struggle with feelings of condemnation versus conviction?  Is it easy for you to accept Christ’s forgiveness and move on or are you sometimes trapped by guilt?
  • When has God called you out of comfortable and into faith?  What has God taught you in those situations where He asked you to do something that was beyond your natural ability, experience, training, gifting, etc.?

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.

Online Bible Study: Week Six, Chapters 11 & 12

Welcome to Week six in this eight-week study on Priscilla Shirer’s Discerning the Voice of God.  Ladies, we are just about to enter the home stretch and these two chapters this week are well-underlined in my book, so let’s get to the good stuff!

My Thoughts:

The enemy has a voice, too.

We talk, study, meditate, read and brainstorm about discerning God’s voice, but the enemy isn’t silent. He’s busy spewing lies and stirring up storms of cacophonous noise to block out what our Shepherd is saying to us. Knowing the sound of Satan’s slimy lies is just as necessary in this walk of faith as recognizing the Holy Spirit’s tug on our soul.

Sometimes Satan’s voice can sound so reasonable compared to the faith God asks us to have. This I know personally. Earlier this year, I began writing in my journal the verses and prayers that clearly directed me to quit my job. With confirmation after confirmation, I obeyed and moved in the direction I saw God working.

And then came this summer.  Our air conditioner broke in our home.  Our car experienced catastrophic demise.  The keys on my piano were sticking and then the pedals broke. The air conditioner in my minivan stopped working and my tire collected a nail.

Those are just some of the battle highlights.

For some reason, most of my emotional breakdowns occur while vacuuming and this time was no different.  While sucking up dirt from my carpet, I was spraying dirt back God’s way:  “I’m done.  I’m done, done, done.  I’m over the attacks and to be honest I’m looking for the easy way out now.”

So, I started planning out a workable schedule and plotting out job options.  I took my eyes off what God told me to do and contemplated the Enemy’s offer for a while.

God’s voice cut through the roar of the vacuum and my sobbing, “Is that what I told you to do?”

In the book of Nehemiah, the returning exiles faced great opposition from enemies of their own as they worked on rebuilding the Jerusalem walls.  Sanballat and his cronies ridiculed the Jews and launched attacks on the work crews.  This enemy was consistent in his attacks and crafty in his distractions.

Finally, Sanballat sent a message to Nehemiah, “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.”

It sounded so reasonable, maybe even hinting at peace.

But Nehemiah immediately identified the voice of the enemy. He sent a messenger to say, “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down.  Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3). Despite repeated messages from the enemy, Nehemiah didn’t even alter the rhythm of his hammer to answer the enemy’s barbs.

Undaunted, Sanballat charged Nehemiah with false reports.  It’s something that would have kept me up nights in a row, worrying about my reputation and lies and how it wasn’t fair.  Nehemiah didn’t react in the slightest: “I sent him this reply: ‘Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.'”  (Nehemiah 6:8).

Satan’s a liar.  He’s making stuff up and throwing obstacles in our path.  He’s launching attacks and spreading doubt.  He’s laying traps and giving us “reasonable solutions” to our problems that don’t include God’s will.

We need to be like Nehemiah, so certain of and focused on what God wants us to do that we don’t waste hours or days or life seasons defeated and confused.  Instead, we tell Satan, “I can’t waste time in order to step down to your level and worry about what you’re doing.  I’m busy and you’re just making up stuff in your head anyway.”

Nehemiah’s focus and unwavering obedience to God didn’t just mean the walls were built successfully.  It meant they were built in record time.

In just 52 days, his work crews closed the last gap and laid down their hammers.  “When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God” (Nehemiah 6:16).

When we overcome the attacks of the enemy, ignore his lies, shut down his schemes and avoid his traps, we will receive the blessing that comes with obedience.  More than that, our lives will give testimony to God’s mighty strength.  No one could look our way and see our own accomplishments; it’s clear that the work will have “been done with the help of our God.”

Chapter Outlines:

Chapter 11, An Invitational Voice

On pages 132-133, she notes that “the beauty of Jesus’ life on earth is not that He did His Father’s will but that He did His Father’s will and nothing else.”  I conjure up lots of seemingly great ideas, but in essence I’m doing what God told me to do PLUS some other good stuff.  Do we really want to see what God is doing and only that?

On page 135, she begins a discussion on why God’s plan for us includes the church.  I love how she described living life as a solo Christian with Christian media as our only food is a problem because “it allows you to act like an only child.”

The church needs all of us with the spiritual gifts Christ has given us in order to function.  But, that doesn’t mean every need we see means we need to fill it (p. 137).  Sometimes it means we’re to pray and wait on God for the answer.

And if God calls us to something in the church, “believe that He has already equipped you to do it” (p. 138).  Our weaknesses will just give Him more opportunity to show off His strengths.

Chapter 12, A Timely Voice

Waiting.  Who likes waiting?  What Christian in history has ever found waiting easy?  And yet God asks us to do it and most of us hate it and often rush ahead of God’s will.

On page 143, she notes that John 16:13 “paints the picture of the Holy Spirit as our ‘guide.’  The term used actually means to guide while one is on one’s way.” So, God gives us “continuous direction on a need-to-know basis.”  Now, God and I don’t always agree on when I “need to know,” but the bottom line is His timing is perfect and I’m simply impatient.

My other favorites from this chapter (oh so many to choose from!!):

  • “”Don’t try to make your time constraints God’s” (p. 144)
  • “Until you know plainly what to do next, keep obediently doing what you are sure of” (p. 144)
  • “Habakkuk had to climb above the ground level of his life in order to focus his eyes on God and tune his ears to hear His voice” (p. 147).
  • “Is God only God when we hear Him speaking or see Him moving?  Or will we still trust that He is still our Father, even if we hear no voice from heaven and see nothing happening?”  . . . We must believe that He is working on our behalf even when He chooses not to say a single word.  In His silence, He speaks volumes to us.  He commands us to wait on Him and focus our attention on His holiness” (p. 148-149).

Your Thoughts:

  • What passages, verses and quotes in these chapters were your favorites?
  • How good are you at doing the Father’s will and nothing else?
  • How have you seen God equip you for ministry when you, in your own strength, were not up to the task?
  • How would you answer her question: “Is God only God when we hear Him speaking or see Him moving?  Or will we still trust that He is still our Father, even if we hear no voice from heaven and see nothing happening?”

  • 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 © 2011 Heather King