Where I Confess How Long It Has Been Since I Saw the Dentist…

I skipped the first appointment because my baby was due and the C-section delivery meant no driving for me.  Plus, there was the normal craziness of schools, carpools, and activities piled on top of having a newborn.

I was justified.2chronicles 30

I skipped the next appointment because our schedule never slowed down.  Every time I thought we’d finally made it to the ‘easy’ part of the year, life got all unexpectedly hectic.

Imagine that.

At some point as a mom with four kids, you’d think I’d just learn to expect hectic.

So, now here it is….a year-and-a-half since I’ve been to the dentist and time for yet another 6-month check-up that I have not made yet.

Here’s the problem.

It is now easier to miss the appointments than it is to make them.  I know instead of just 6 months of cleaning, they’ll be doing extra scraping and polishing.

I hate going to the dentist on a good day.

My mouth never hurts until they clean my teeth.  They find a sore spot and then continually poke and prod and ask, “Does this bother you?”  Well, it really doesn’t bother me as long as I don’t stab at it with a sharp mental pointy instrument of torture.

I brush my teeth, use mouthwash, and reluctantly floss, but I know I need to go to the dentist….eventually…..when I have the time (which of course I never have).

“Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”

Wise advice.

Because the problem with delay is that it just makes it easier to keep delaying and harder to do what needs to be done.

Miss one Sunday of church, you can go back the following Sunday without a spiritual revolution.

Miss a month, and you’re out of the habit of going.

Miss a few months and even when you know you should go back, you don’t want anyone to ask you where you’ve been.

So it goes.

Take a day off exercising and you can make it up the next day.

Take two weeks off and why bother exercising today since you’ve missed the last 14 days?

Now it will hurt.

Now you have to start all over.

Now you might have to answer questions.

Now I might have cavities.  (Might?  Yeah, that’s pretty much a guarantee at this point. Hence, why I don’t want to go.)

Now it will take longer.

Now people might judge.

Now you feel hopeless, flawed, messed up.  You are the failure who stopped doing what you knew you were supposed to do and rather than call that dentist or head to the gym or slip into the pew on a Sunday morning, you just want to shrug it off and avoid going back.

Returning requires humility and repentance.  It requires bending that willful knee low and confessing that you strayed or stopped or missed or sinned or miscalculated or got it all terribly wrong.

That prodigal son could have run back to his dad at the first sign of disappointment with the free and wild life.

Yet, he stayed.  And the longer he stayed, the harder it probably seemed to head back home and face his dad.

Guilt, shame and regret heaped themselves like heavy burdens onto his back.

So, he kept marching in the direction of death because going forward was easier than changing direction.

Jonah, the wayward, runaway prophet, could have changed his mind at any point and taken the easier journey to Nineveh.

Instead, it took a violent storm and a hungry fish to convince him that obeying God was better than stubbornly heading in the opposite direction.

The thought of going back frightens me a little.  I know I’ll have to face the consequences of poor decisions and procrastination.

But the longer I wait to call that dentist, the worse that appointment is going to be.

And the longer we wait to obey Him, the more obedience might cost us.

Yet, even when it takes effort and repentance, even when pride has to crumble, even when we need to confess, God beckons us to return.

He gives us new mercies.

He gives us fresh starts.

He re-places our feet on the solid ground.

He journeys with us.

He beckons us home and celebrates the turning and returning it took to get us there.

That’s grace.

I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you (Isaiah 44:22 ESV)

Therefore say to them, Thus declares the Lord of hosts: Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts (Zechariah 1:3 ESV).

For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him (2 Chronicles 30:9b ESV).

Come, let us return to the Lord;
    for he has torn us, that he may heal us;
    he has struck us down, and he will bind us up (Hosea 6:1 ESV).

Let us test and examine our ways,
    and return to the Lord! (Lamentation 3:40 ESV).

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

This Little Kitty Stayed Home

One of our cats ran away last week for a 3o-hour trek into the woods.

Our other cat stayed home.003

In sympathy, my daughters talked about our large black cat missing his smaller orange “brother.”  He meowed and we thought it was a meow of sadness.  My three-year-old showed him extra affection out of concern for his worried feline heart.

Maybe he was just meowing because he was hungry.

Because when our orange cat finally sauntered home at 2 a.m., the stay-at-home cat seemed to care less at first.

Then the hissing started.

Here we are four days later, and there is still hissing.

The prodigal tries to eat food, or brush up close to the larger cat, or snuggle up on the bed where the stay-at-home cat is napping.

And we hear the ugliest, most evil hissing sound.  It’s hardly a warm reception for our runaway.

We have the classic case of the prodigal son and the older brother who remained at home working the fields.  It’s playing itself out between a behemoth black cat and a skittish orange cat in our very own home.

And this I understand just a tiny bit.

In Scripture, the prodigal son demanding his inheritance before his father’s death was more than just a young adult rebellion and a little bit of wandering and partying before responsible adulthood.

Sure it sounds so calm and level-headed at first glance when the younger son said to his dad, “Father, give me the share of the estate I have coming to me” (Luke 15:12).

Yet, it was really the ultimate rejection of a parent.  In essence, the prodigal son said, “I wish you were dead, so I’m going to take my inheritance and leave as if you had already died.”

We sometimes miss the enormity of the disrespect and insult and treat the prodigal as if he just had a wild stage that he needed to get out of his system or simply a little curiosity about the big wide world.

But it was so much more than that.  It was cutting off that relationship in what the son knew was a permanent, hurtful, totally destructive, rude, and unfeeling way.

“I don’t want to ever see you again.  I wish you were dead.  I hate you.”

That’s what the son said.

And here I am with this runaway cat, feeling the tiniest bit of rejection (and worry) that he would choose a frigid night outside in periodic snowfall over our warm home with food, fresh water, and places to stretch out for comfortable naps.

How much more the hurt of that father watching his son slamming doors and shouting in anger.

Of course, in their case when this same prodigal son crawled home, humbled and hurting, the father killed the fatted calf and threw a Welcome Home party.

And we haven’t done that.  No special treatment.  No canned tuna opened to celebrate our cat’s return.  It’s just business as usual for us.

But still our other cat hisses in annoyance like that older brother in the field, re-asserting his authority and his territorial rights. It’s more than a bit ugly.

It seems like a fitting time of year to talk about runaways and prodigals, the lost and the hurting.  Our churches are in full preparation for the Holy Week with egg hunts and sunrise services, special breakfasts and brunches.

The truth is that in the next week people we’ve never seen before or those we haven’t seen for a long time will walk through the doors of our church buildings.

In some cases, they will be simple visitors, passing through the sanctuary for only a brief time.  Others might be long-lost friends.  Still others might be the prodigals slipping into the pews, hoping not to draw too much attention to themselves.

And we have to choose how to welcome them.

With open arms.

Or with territorial hissing.

Or unforgiveness.

Or sanctimonious displays of righteousness and very little grace.

This past week, I read of a woman who slipped into the pews of a church before the service began one Sunday morning.  She bowed her head low and cried, mourning the death of her son.

A woman in the church walked over and stood looming over her while she prayed.

Finally, the visitor looked up expecting someone to pray for her or hug her or ask how to help her.

Instead, she was told, “I’ve been attending this church for 17 years and that’s my seat.”

That’s the ugly sound of hissing.

We do this in other ways, making 200 “older brothers” feel mighty cozy on a Sunday morning, and we’ll look polished and shiny on Easter Sunday, like we have it all totally together.

But perhaps we need the reminder to leave room–and not just pew space–for the younger brothers returning home, for the lost, and for the hurting.

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