We need lifting up

Today I received a mini-lecture from a random stranger in well-worn jeans and a baseball cap.

As I left the library with my three-year-old,my son danced over to the button for the automatic door and pressed it with a little bounce in his step and wiggle of his head.

He loves pressing these buttons.

When he was old enough to reach out of the stroller, he insisted on being the one to control the doors.

When he was two-years-old and leaving the library was always a fight, these buttons were a blessing.  He wanted to skip going home for lunch and naptime and just stay and play forever.  The massive terrible two’s tantrum hovered over us like a threatening storm cloud every single time we went to the library in those days.

So, I started giving him something to look forward to.  I’d say, “It’s time to go.  Would you like to be the one to press the button?”

Sometimes it failed.  He still had to be carried on out of there in a full-blown fit.

But on a lot of days, it worked.  He’d head out of the children’s section on a mission to be the one to open the doors on our way out.

Today was a good day at the library. We saw a friend.  My son played without fighting and even did some sharing, which is a new and still-developing skill.

When it was time to go, we grabbed our stuff and headed for the front without cajoling, threatening, or screaming.

So, when he pressed the button and did a little dance as the doors opened, I smiled.

Yes, this was a successful library day.  Thank goodness!

Then the stranger complained.

At first, I couldn’t tell he was picking at my son.  He said, “One day, those buttons might break.”

This was unexpected.  Mostly when people see my son so excited about pressing the buttons, they laugh or smile and it makes all of our days a little brighter.

Then this stranger said the mean words:  “Those buttons are for the handicapped.  Not for him.”

That’s when I realized he was complaining that my three-year-old likes to push these buttons—like probably every other three-year-old on the planet.

My son didn’t bang the button, hit the button, slam the button or in any way misuse the button.  He just pressed it.

He didn’t take up a handicap parking space without a handicap sticker or use a handicap bathroom when it wasn’t necessary and prevent others from using it as a result.

And I don’t ever use those automatic buttons myself since I can open the doors without difficulty.

But my son used this button to open a door that he can’t open any other way because it’s far too big and heavy for him.

And in the very moment he had joy,  we were criticized.

Sometimes this is exactly how it goes.

Just when you are having a good day, someone tries to bring you down.

Your child doesn’t have a tantrum, he uses the potty, and he doesn’t fight with the other kids, and you think, “Hurray!  Maybe I’m not failing completely as a mom.”  That’s when someone tells you how badly you’re doing.

Yesterday, I read something by Charles Spurgeon  that pinged again in my soul while standing a little tongue-tied in the library lobby:

“God’s people need lifting up. We are heavy by nature.  We have no wings…” (Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, April 15).

I don’t really need a stranger to tell me I don’t measure up, made a bad choice, or in any way am failing at motherhood.

I am heavy by nature.

Most of us as moms, as women, and as human beings are pretty adept at self-criticizing.

All day long, we’re generally just trying to do the best we can while others pile on their own opinions about how we’re falling short.

We need lifting up, above the tough circumstances, above the sin that weighs us down, above the criticism that tramples all over our joy.

And Jesus does this for us.

He is the lifter of our heads (Psalm 3:3).

David said,

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul” (Psalm 25:1).

And Psalm 146 tells us:

The Lord raises up those who are bowed down (Psalm 146:8 ESV).

In Psalm 28, it says God lifts us into His arms just as a shepherd cradles his sheep:

Oh, save your people and bless your heritage! Be their shepherd and carry them forever  (Psalm 28:9 ESV).

I don’t  know what might weigh you down at the moment or what might be dragging your soul into a pit of discouragement.

Whatever it is, we can lift it up to Jesus.

Lift your soul right up to Him.

He will carry you.

Attacked by an Angry Bird

ephesians2-14

We’re being attacked by an angry bird and he is giving us no peace.

When my son woke up more than an hour early from his nap the other day, I knew something was up.

Then I heard it.

Wham!

Wham!

Something was slamming, repeatedly, into the window in my son’s room.

My two-year-old told me “I scared.”

I’d be scared too if I was awakened from a deep sleep by the sounds of attack.

I peeked outside our front door and saw our enemy, a brilliant cardinal–a bird I’d normally praise for beauty–banging his head against the glass over and over and over again.

What could I do but take pictures and a little video?

angry bird

He glared at me as if I was mocking him with my phone.  It was both frustrating and amusing at the time.

But now that this bird is still waking my son up two days later with his repeated assault, I have declared avian war.

I’ve trimmed back all the branches that brushed the side of our house.

I gently lifted his nest (no eggs or babies!) and moved it to another tree.

I’ve stood guard through today’s naptime and run out the front door every time our red-feathered enemy started his bombardment.

He flies onto the roof every time I run out the door, and I think he’s finally tired of running away.  Maybe he’ll realize this perch isn’t worth defending and find somewhere else to nest.

After two days of war on our peace, I am happy to settle into a little quiet.

That’s what we all want, after all, a little peace.

I’m not talking about world peace and I don’t even mean just the absence of conflict.

I mean that feeling of settled rest, no more feeling on alert and on guard, the feeling that your muscles don’t need to be tense and you can sink back into a pillow without fear of attack.

In the Psalms, I read something that rings so true:

Too long have I had my dwelling
among those who hate peace.
I am for peace,
but when I speak, they are for war!
(Psalm 120:6-7 ESV).

Sometimes, we’re so desperate for peace and it just seems like people or even circumstances are determined to attack us.

It’s a relentless assault and sometimes it comes out of nowhere and wearies us to the bone..

You feel settled and then you are shaken.
You feel confident of the future and then there is change.
You feel content and then envy strikes.
You think everything is fine and then you read the nasty email.

Here’s what I love, though, Jesus knows the deepest and truest need of our needy hearts.

When he appeared to the disciples following his resurrection, Jesus had a clear message to share:

“Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.'” (John 20:19 ESV).

“Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you” (John 20:21 ESV).

“Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.‘ (John 20:26 ESV).

“Peace be with you.”  If there’s anything those disciples needed in that moment, when their Messiah seemed dead and they feared they’d be killed soon also, it was peace, and Jesus knew that.

But, the most beautiful thing about this is that Jesus could have just as easily said “I AM with you” because He is our PEACE and our Prince of Peace;

He is the reason we can deeply rest and have confidence in the goodness and the ability and the mercy of our God.

Beth Moore reminds us that, while we can feel shaken and attacked,

Christ had perfect peace in ALONENESS…in PROVISION…in the STORM…in the WAIT…and in the TEARS (Living Beyond Yourself).

In any circumstances and at all times, Christ’s presence can bring us the peace we need.  Yes, even for the aloneness, for the seasons of want, for the storm, for the long waiting, and for the tears.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that an angry bird might come out of nowhere and start waging war on your son’s naptime.

And it doesn’t mean that bird will magically disappear on his own.

No, I had to do battle.

But it does mean that Jesus offers to bring His peace right there into the noise and the fighting and the fear and uncertainty or whatever we face.

He assures us that He’s here.

“Peace be with you.”  And He is.

The Grace God Gives for the Wearied Soul

psalm 51-12

I could recognize the discouragement. The perpetual fatigue in the face and in the slumping of the shoulders, not extreme, but ever so slightly burdened down low.

It was clear in the mechanical activity, not the joyous friendliness of cheerful service like before. Now my friend moved from point A to point B, task one to task two, not smiling, just doing because doing is what needed to be done.

I recognized the discouragement because

I

Have

Been

There

Before.

We who have been weary can see the signs in others, the trudging, the exhaustion, the worn out soul fraying at every edge and held together with patches and slipshod stitchery.

So we come alongside our friends, our Christian sisters and brothers, those whose burdens we’re supposed to remove so they can walk free and unencumbered for a time.  We remind them of God’s goodness, His grace.  We encourage them in their efforts, cheering them on with reminders to persevere and not give up and yes, there will be a harvest in time, and no, it isn’t all in vain.

How do we know?  That’s what they might ask.

Oh my friend, how I know.

Because contrary to what you might have heard or expected, the Christian life isn’t all easy and Christian service isn’t all joyfully inspiring and pouring out to others out of an overflow.  Sometimes we’re emptying out the last few drops from our own parched souls, not knowing what to do when we’re dehydrated and depleted and still others hold out needy hands for more.

Yet, we know this also.

We pour out…everything….and He pours in anew.

You might think you’re alone in this, stumbling over your own weaknesses, serving to exhaustion, not seeing the reward or the gain or the purpose or the point.

Yet, the prayers of saints long before teach us that others have desperately needed to be renewed, revived, restored.

The Psalmists prayed:

Will You not revive us again
so that Your people may rejoice in You?
(Psalm 85:6 HCSB)

and

Restore our fortunes, Lord,
as streams renew the desert.
Those who plant in tears
will harvest with shouts of joy.
They weep as they go to plant their seed,
but they sing as they return with the harvest  (Psalm 126:4-6 NLT)

and

God, create a clean heart for me
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
 Do not banish me from Your presence
or take Your Holy Spirit from me.
 Restore the joy of Your salvation to me,
and give me a willing spirit (Psalm 51:10-12 HCSB).  

Their prayers would be unnecessary, meaningless even unless they felt the need for the renewing, the reviving, the restoring work of God in us.

We need the grace again, the joy again, the steadfast spirit again, the life again.  That’s what they asked.

That’s what we need, too.

Eugene Peterson wrote:

Nothing suffers from time quite so much as religion.  The skeletal structure of obedience becomes arthritic, and the circulatory system of praise becomes sluggish.  The prayer ‘revive us again’ keeps the body of Christ youthful and responsive to every new mercy and grace in God (Praying With the Psalms).

So we offer to help carry the cross for a time through this valley and we remind them of the hope and the promise as we travel along together.

We tell the fullness of our testimony, not just the revival, the renewal, the restoration after the fact…not the destination without the journey or the end result without the in between.

No, we remember that we were worn out and limping and God renewed us.

We were dead and hopeless and God revived us.

We had lost everything and God restored us.

God did this for me, that’s what we say.  And He will do this work in you, too.

And we pray, of course we pray.

We ask God to fill them right up again, fill their own parched souls so they are overflowing. We ask for strength anew and energy for each day, for reminders of the vision and reassurance of the harvest.

God’s plan isn’t for us to walk through discouragement alone, not any of us. How could we ever survive it, after all, if we thought we were the only ones and that somehow we must be here because of our own fumbling and faltering?

But to know others have been there, have made it through, and have traveled back to tell us the good news and to pray for us along the way…that’s the grace God gives for a wearied soul.

25 Bible Verses and a Prayer for the Thirsty Soul

versesthirst

  • Nehemiah 9:15 ESV
     You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger and brought water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and you told them to go in to possess the land that you had sworn to give them.
  • Psalm 23:1-2 ESV
    The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
        He makes me lie down in green pastures.
    He leads me beside still waters.
  • Psalm 42:1-2 ESV
    As a deer pants for flowing streams,
        so pants my soul for you, O God.
    My soul thirsts for God,
        for the living God.
    When shall I come and appear before God?
  • Psalm 63:1 ESV
    O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
        my soul thirsts for you;
    my flesh faints for you,
        as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
  • Psalm 78:15-16 ESV
    He split rocks in the wilderness
        and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep.
    16 He made streams come out of the rock
        and caused waters to flow down like rivers.
  • Psalm 105:41 ESV
    He opened the rock, and water gushed out;
        it flowed through the desert like a river.
    He split rocks in the wilderness
        and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep.
    16 He made streams come out of the rock
        and caused waters to flow down like rivers.
  • Psalm 107:4-6 ESV
    Some wandered in desert wastes,
        finding no way to a city to dwell in;
    hungry and thirsty,
        their soul fainted within them.
    Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
        and he delivered them from their distress.
  • Psalm 114:8 ESV
    who turns the rock into a pool of water,
        the flint into a spring of water.
  • Psalm 143:6 ESV
    I stretch out my hands to you;
        my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.
  • Isaiah 12:2-3 ESV
    Behold, God is my salvation;
        I will trust, and will not be afraid;
    for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
        and he has become my salvation.”
    3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
  • Isaiah 32:2 ESV
    Each will be like a hiding place from the wind,
        a shelter from the storm,
    like streams of water in a dry place,
        like the shade of a great rock in a weary land.
  • Isaiah 35:6-7 ESV
    then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
        and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
    For waters break forth in the wilderness,
        and streams in the desert;
    the burning sand shall become a pool,
        and the thirsty ground springs of water;
    in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down,
        the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
  • Isaiah 41:17-18 ESV
    When the poor and needy seek water,
        and there is none,
        and their tongue is parched with thirst,
    I the Lord will answer them;
        I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
    18 I will open rivers on the bare heights,
        and fountains in the midst of the valleys.
    I will make the wilderness a pool of water,
        and the dry land springs of water.
  • Isaiah 43:19 ESV
    Behold, I am doing a new thing;
        now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
    I will make a way in the wilderness
        and rivers in the desert.
  • Isaiah 48:21 ESV
    They did not thirst when he led them through the deserts;
        he made water flow for them from the rock;
        he split the rock and the water gushed out.
  • Isaiah 55:1 ESV
    Come, everyone who thirsts,
        come to the waters;
    and he who has no money,
        come, buy and eat!
    Come, buy wine and milk
        without money and without price.
  • Isaiah 58:11 ESV
    And the Lord will guide you continually
        and satisfy your desire in scorched places
        and make your bones strong;
    and you shall be like a watered garden,
        like a spring of water,
        whose waters do not fail.
  • Jeremiah 2:13 ESV
    for my people have committed two evils:
    they have forsaken me,
        the fountain of living waters,
    and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
        broken cisterns that can hold no water.
  • Zechariah 14:8-9 ESV
    On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them tothe eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter.
    And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will beone and his name one.
  • Matthew 5:6 ESV
    “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
  • John 4:7-14 ESV
    Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
  • John 6:35 ESV
    Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
  • John 7:38-39 ESV
    Whoever believes in me, as[a] the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
  • Revelation 7:16-17 ESV
    They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
        the sun shall not strike them,
        nor any scorching heat.
    17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
        and he will guide them to springs of living water,
    and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
  • Revelation 22:17 ESV
    The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

prayerthirsty

Does God Listen When We Pray?

“Listening is an act of love.”

That’s what she told me years ago as we sat around the table in our Bible study group.

She said it with a laugh, because she was a talker.  She liked chatting, chatting, chatting.  Listening was the sacrificial gift she gave to others.

Sometimes one phrase like that sticks with you years later.  It presses that impression deep into your clay-heart and you can trace your finger along the imprint over and over, to remember, to act, to transform, to put it into practice.

It changes you.

Listening.  That’s the act of love we give to others.

We quiet our own renegade thoughts, stop trying to think of what we want to say next, stop tuning others out in order to turn our selfish eyes inward once again.

We listen.  Really listen.  We listen so we can pray and ask the right questions.  Yes, we listen so we can show love.

I take this to heart.  Me, the mom perpetually in the minivan.  Some days, my kids want to babble on so.  I live in a world of noise.

But when I start to nod my head without hearing and insert appropriate “Mmmm—hmmmms” at well-timed pauses simply to pretend like I’m listening to them (while I secretly revel in my own private thoughts), I stop.

Now I choose to listen, choose to value who they are and what they have to say.

And I remind myself of this: Listening is an act of God’s love to me.

He doesn’t just ask me to give this gift to others.  He gives it first.

I don’t always feel it, of course.  Sometimes I push out those breathy prayers and feel like nothing is changing.  He isn’t listening, isn’t understanding my need or even caring about my little self in my desperate situation.

Those prayers sure feel at times like they are hitting that proverbial ceiling.

The Psalmists understood.

David wrote,

Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth (Psalm 54:2)

and

“To you, LORD, I call; you are my Rock, do not turn a deaf ear to me. For if you remain silent, I will be like those who go down to the pit” (Psalm 28:1).

Asaph prayed the same:

“God, do not remain silent; do not turn a deaf ear, do not stand aloof, O God” (Psalm 83:1).

That’s what we feel perhaps, and yet we’re assured that God hears our pure hearts when we pray.

God doesn’t tune us out or ignore us.

Psalm 10:17 says,

“Lord, you have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their hearts.  You will listen carefully” (HCSB).

He listens.  Not distractedly, absentmindedly, or halfheartedly.

God listens “carefully” to the desire of the humble.

Indeed, the Psalmist could say, “You know what I long for, Lord; you hear my every sigh”  (Psalm 38:9 NLT).  Even when we can’t cram our needs and feelings into words, God hears the very longings of our heart and every sigh of our overwhelmed soul.

When Jesus stood outside of Lazarus’s tomb, surrounded by wailing mourners who blamed him for Lazarus’s death, He prayed with these words:

Then Jesus raised His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You heard Me. I know that You always hear Me….” (John 1:1:41-42 HCSB).

Jesus prayed boldly on the basis of the promise of God’s character:  He is the God who always hears us. 

In Beth Moore’s book, The Beloved Disciple, she issues a prayer challenge:

Every time you pray for the next week, begin your prayer with Christ’s words straight out of John 11:42, “I know You always hear me.”  Then conclude it with Christ’s words in John 11:41, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.” Practice God’s presence!  Pray as if He’s really listening because He is!”

This is my prayer practice this week, the way I am pursuing the presence of Christ through my prayer life.

This week, I’ll continue breathing out those short 5-word prayers from last week.

But  in my longer prayer times, I begin each with: “I know You always hear me.”  And before I say, “Amen, ” I pray, “Father, thank You that You have heard me.”

Because He does hear me.  I just need the reminder and reassurance at times.  This great God, so Mighty, so Awesome, loves me and chooses to listen to me as an expression of that merciful love.

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 focus on Praying Simply?

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

What My Three-Month Old Is Teaching His Mama

I hear his sharp, startled cry.

It’s only been half an hour since I cradled him and tucked him into his baby bed for the night.  This awakening is unexpected.

I slip into his room and its deep darkness.  Even though I can’t see his tiny frame, I hear him squirming, kicking, tossing his face side to side searching for me and calling out for rescue and help.psalm46-10

The floor creaks under my footstep and he ceases the cries, lies still for a moment, just waiting for Mommy to reach in and scoop him up into arms that will soothe and fix and comfort.

He knows I’m there even though he can’t see me.  And for the moment, that’s enough.

I lift him out of the bassinet, snuggle him close and rock from side to side, patting his back and assuring him that “Mommy’s here, baby boy.  Mommy will make it better.”

Soon his muscles relax and his head droops down onto my shoulder.  His breathing slows and deepens.

Still, I sway back and forth in the darkness and quiet, cuddling this infant blessing, not ready yet to move and let go.

And I’m thinking about this.

After just three months of life with me, my son calms simply at the creaking floorboards that announce my presence in the room.

But me?

I don’t have an infant faith or a 3-month experience with my Savior.

Thirty years into this faith journey, still I scream and thrash and demand attention and rescue even when I know He’s with me, even when He’s assured me of His presence, even though He’s never once failed or abandoned me.

I cradle my son and continue rocking back and forth as God reminds me:

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”
Psalm 46:10 NIV

It’s not a verse about quiet times or somber worship.  It’s a battlefield Psalm, written when circumstances crushed God’s people and their hearts were trembling. The Sons of Korah wrote a song to remind God’s people of this:

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1 NIV).

Ever-present.  That’s what our God is.  He’s with us.  Even before He lifts us out of the pit, we can hear the creaking of His footsteps nearby and know He’s there in the darkness.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

Therefore—-because He’s always there—-we need not fear, no matter what rumbles and falls to pieces around us.  Even if the foundations of the earth shake, He is our unshakeable Foundation.

Indeed:

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress (Psalm 46:7 NIV).

So, “be still.”

Be still and know that He Is God. He will be exalted.psalm46

In the midst of any darkness, in any storm, in any crisis or struggle or pain, He will display His glory through the rescue and redemption of His children.

That’s me and you.

Those Psalm-writing sons of Korah say it again.  Maybe they know we struggle to understand.  Maybe they know that a three-month-old baby can trust his imperfect Mama, and yet we’ll fail to trust our perfect God.

So they repeat it for our stubborn, slow-to-learn shaky souls:

The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress (Psalm 46:11).

It’s not just the earthquakes and battles that make me question His presence sometimes.  It can be as simple as the overwhelming rush of my minivan life.

But there, yes, even there on the busiest of breathless days, The Lord is with me and it’s His presence that gives me peace.

As I lay my sleeping baby boy back down in his bed, I find myself singing an old hymn, a favorite that I’ve sung through some of the hardest times of my life.

It’s a song I’ll be singing all month long as I pursue the presence of Christ by being still and knowing He is God.

What songs do you sing when you’re scared or overwhelmed and need to know God is with you?

Be Still, My Soul
by Katharina Amalia Dorothea von Schlegel

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below….

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last…

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

Ask Me More….Do You Believe This?

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God” John 14:1

For some reason when I clean, I clean fast.  No slow and methodical wiping of the rag or scrubbing of the dish for me.

So, yesterday I snatched up the trash bag with an upwards yank, dropped it on the floor, tied it up in record time and dashed out the front door, hopped down the front steps, tossed open the trash can lid, plopped the trash bag in, released the lid so it crashed down and kept on walking in one nearly unbroken stride.

Unbroken, that is, until I stepped down on what I thought was solid ground, but was really a sink hole courtesy of our friendly front yard mole.  My ankle twisted in an unexpected direction.  I felt the wince of pain as I almost hit the ground.

Now, fortunately, it was just a momentary shock of pain.  In a few seconds I was limping down the driveway for the mail.  A minute later I was back to the sport of Extreme Cleaning with no long-term damages.

But life in its way is no less unexpected and sometimes no less shockingly painful.

It can be as simple as the surprise pitfalls in a single day.  Like the fact that my house was passably clean when we awoke this morning.  Then my three daughters painted beautiful artwork, and each other, and the chairs, the table, the carpet, their clothes.  After an unplanned mid-morning bath, all of the paint flecked off their bodies onto the bathtub.

Surprise!  Suddenly my day became a whole-house scrub-down and laundry marathon.

It can be as paralyzing as a life-changing twist.  The phone call with bad news.  The hack to your budget.  The visit to the doctor.  The sputter of a car.  The removing of a wedding ring.

Somehow in the middle of this topsy-turvy, always uncertain, shake-up of a world, the Psalmist wrote:

“My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music” (Psalm 57:7, NIV). 

Reading the preceding verses makes it clear, David wasn’t treading on a comfortable path when he penned this Psalm.  He wrote these particular words “when he had fled from Saul into the cave.”john14-1

So, how then, could his heart be steadfast?  How could he be “firmly fixed in place, immovable, not subject to change, firm in belief” while running for his life from the powerful king of an enemy? (Merriam-Webster).

And what about us?

Those minor unexpected annoyances in my morning left me cranky and quick-to-snap.

Major upsets to my plans and life cost me a night of sleep.

Steadfast?  Not me.  Not hardly.

The trouble is that the steadiness of my belief seems utterly dependent on the ease of the path I trod.

It’s not dependent enough on Him, My God, My Firm Foundation, My Solid Rock.

Martha sank deep into an unexpected pit when Jesus didn’t heal her brother, Lazarus.  Instead, she left the place of mourning over his death in order to confront Jesus about it privately.  “’Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’” (John 11:21).

Jesus knew just what to ask her:  “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (Luke 11:25-26).

Did she believe this?  Did she believe that Jesus was more than a nice friend and successful religious teacher?  Did she believe in Him was resurrection and life?

Could she put aside her emotions and declare that no matter how she felt, she could trust God?

Martha regained her footing on this shaky ground by stating her belief: “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world” (John 11:27).

Yesterday, I felt the familiar suffocation of fear at some unexpected news.

Today, I experienced the all-too-familiar bad attitude over some twists in my day.

And Jesus asks me, “What do you believe?”

He asks the same of you.

You may be tempted to spout off the Nicene Creed or fall back safely on the answers of a good Christian girl.

Really, though.  Truly.  Honestly.

What do you believe?

Shaky ground and a loss of footing are always signs of belief problems.

It means:

we’ve been putting our faith in ourselves, in others, in our circumstances.
we’re relying on our own plans.
we’re depending on our own strength.
we’ve bought into lies somewhere along the way.

As you catch your breath after a fall, steady yourself by reaffirming the truth.

I believe God loves me, always, unconditionally, fully.
I believe that God’s grace covers over all my sins.
I believe that I will never go through any circumstance alone; God will never leave me nor forsake me.
I believe that He can do anything, even more than I could ever imagine.
I believe that even when I see tragedy, God is working on my behalf and for my good.
I believe that God will be glorified in every situation.
I believe God will provide for my every need.

This is what we know is true, no matter what we may feel.  Therefore, we can trust God.

Originally published as Twisted Ankle, Twisted Truth on 11/7/2011

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

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Renew, Revive, Restore Us Again

I could recognize the discouragement. The perpetual fatigue in the face and in the slumping of the shoulders, not extreme, but ever so slightly burdened down low.

It was clear in the mechanical activity, not the joyous friendliness of cheerful service like before. Now my friend moved from point A to point B, task one to task two, not smiling, just doing because doing is what needed to be done.

I recognized the discouragement because

I

Have

Been

There

Before.

We who have been weary can see the signs in others, the trudging, the exhaustion, the worn out soul fraying at every edge and held together with patches and slipshod stitchery.

So we come alongside our friends, our Christian sisters and brothers, those whose burdens we’re supposed to remove so they can walk free and unencumbered for a time.  We remind them of God’s goodness, His grace.  We encourage them in their efforts, cheering them on with reminders to persevere and not give up and yes, there will be a harvest in time, and no, it isn’t all in vain.

How do we know?  That’s what they might ask.

Oh my friend, how I know.psalm51

Because contrary to what you might have heard or expected, the Christian life isn’t all easy and Christian service isn’t all joyfully inspiring and pouring out to others out of an overflow.  Sometimes we’re emptying out the last few drops from our own parched souls, not knowing what to do when we’re dehydrated and depleted and still others hold out needy hands for more.

Yet, we know this also.

We pour out…everything….and He pours in anew.

You might think you’re alone in this, stumbling over your own weaknesses, serving to exhaustion, not seeing the reward or the gain or the purpose or the point.

Yet, the prayers of saints long before teach us that others have desperately needed to be renewed, revived, restored.

The Psalmists prayed:

Will You not revive us again
so that Your people may rejoice in You?
(Psalm 85:6 HCSB)

and

Restore our fortunes, Lord,
as streams renew the desert.
Those who plant in tears
will harvest with shouts of joy.
They weep as they go to plant their seed,
but they sing as they return with the harvest  (Psalm 126:4-6 NLT)

and

God, create a clean heart for me
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
 Do not banish me from Your presence
or take Your Holy Spirit from me.
 Restore the joy of Your salvation to me,
and give me a willing spirit (Psalm 51:10-12 HCSB).  

Their prayers would be unnecessary, meaningless even unless they felt the need for the renewing, the reviving, the restoring work of God in us.

We need the grace again, the joy again, the steadfast spirit again, the life again.  That’s what they asked.

That’s what we need, too.

Eugene Peterson wrote:

Nothing suffers from time quite so much as religion.  The skeletal structure of obedience becomes arthritic, and the circulatory system of praise becomes sluggish.  The prayer ‘revive us again’ keeps the body of Christ youthful and responsive to every new mercy and grace in God (Praying With the Psalms).

So we offer to help carry the cross for a time through this valley and we remind them of the hope and the promise as we travel along together.

We tell the fullness of our testimony, not just the revival, the renewal, the restoration after the fact…not the destination without the journey or the end result without the in between.

No, we remember that we were worn out and limping and God renewed us.

We were dead and hopeless and God revived us.

We had lost everything and God restored us.

God did this for me, that’s what we say.  And He will do this work in you, too.

And we pray, of course we pray.

We ask God to fill them right up again, fill their own parched souls so they are overflowing. We ask for strength anew and energy for each day, for reminders of the vision and reassurance of the harvest.

God’s plan isn’t for us to walk through discouragement alone, not any of us. How could we ever survive it, after all, if we thought we were the only ones and that somehow we must be here because of our own fumbling and faltering?

But to know others have been there, have made it through, and have traveled back to tell us the good news and to pray for us along the way…that’s the grace God gives for a wearied soul.

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 the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Keep On Keeping On

Lunches packed for the last time. Desks cleared, backpacks cleaned out and stowed away. Field day over.  Class parties celebrated.  Awards ceremony concluded and certificates photographed.  End-of-the-year pictures taken of each daughter and compared to the photos from the first day of the school year.

And now we collapse.  We did it.  Somehow it feels like a joint accomplishment, not just theirs.  Sure, my kids worked hard. So did I.  And somehow, by God’s grace, we made it here to this first day of 006summer vacation.

It’s only taken 15 months of prayer.  I started praying for this school year last March, praying for this teacher, this classroom, these friends, this school, these character issues, and these lessons.

On Monday, a friend and I bowed heads for the last time this school year and we gave thanks.

Thank You, Lord, for answering our pleas for our children.  Thank You for helping them learn, being with them in all of the struggles that have sent these loving (and worried) mamas to their knees.  Thank You for helping them with difficult concepts and friendship drama, bullies and mistakes on tests, report cards and forgetfulness. Thank You for these teachers You chose specially for our kids.

And we began again, just that quickly, one sentence to another, thank God for this year and then praying for next year: for classroom placements and teacher assignments, for the responsibilities of a new grade and for the friendships they’d make.

So it continues.

“Pray without ceasing….” that’s what Paul wrote (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

He meant that living prayer, that breathing in and breathing out of living life alongside God, taking in crises and handing them right on over to the Lord, receiving blessing and offering up spontaneous praise.

It means no more arbitrary separations between the sacred and the secular, between the holy parts of my life where God is welcome and invited and the dusty living rooms of our hearts where we try to hide away the clutter in corners.

Having kids, though, reminds me of this, too:

Prayer is perpetual; it’s insistent and consistent.

And sometimes I’m not.  I’m driven to the throne by need and I’m pouring out pleas of desperation until the need eases a bit.  Or perhaps I just grow weary or fall back into the coziness of complacency and apathy.

I’m not praying so fervently any more. It’s more like unemotional have-to prayers, perhaps performed out of duty, perhaps totally forgotten and not prayed at all.

We pray for that intervention, that salvation, that redemption, that rescue…for us or for another….and then slowly we cease the praying.   We need the reminder to keep on keeping on, to not give up asking God for that healing and to refuse to stop praying for a loved one’s salvation.

With kids, you can’t really forget, not for long.  Time just pushes you right through from prayer need to prayer need.  I’m not even done praying over one school year before I’m on my knees for the next.

I read the Psalms and here is the reminder anew:

“But I keep praying to you, Lord, hoping this time you will show me favor.  In your unfailing love, O God, answer my prayer with your sure salvation” (Psalm 69:13 NLT).

“But I will keep on hoping for your help; I will praise you more and more” (Psalm 71:14 NLT).

“We keep looking to the Lord our God for his mercy, just as servants keep their eyes on their master, as a slave girl watches her mistress for the slightest signal” (Psalm 123:2 NLT).

Keep praying….keep hoping….keep looking.005

Keep at it and when He answers, press on in more prayer.

With this fresh resolve, I flip through the pages of the neglected prayer journal.  What did I pray then….and what do I still need to pray now?

What have you neglected in prayer?  What have you given up on and long since stopped asking God for?  Who used to be on your prayer list but somehow slipped off?

It’s discipline to begin again.  And when we cease praying, which feels like the inevitable failing of us forgetful ones, we return again and resolve again to be insistent and consistent in seeking God and hoping in His deliverance.

What have you stopped praying about that you need to pray for again?  What prayers are you already praying for your children’s next school year?

Do you have a prayer journal?  How does it look and how do you use it?

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

Weekend Rerun: Peppermint in the Spring

Originally published March 14, 2012

Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!  (Psalm 141:2)

I bought it on a whim and I’m so glad I did.

Years ago, I was filling my garden with herbs.  I bought the tiniest pots of rosemary, lavender, sage, thyme, oregano, basil, parsley and chives for $2 each and just hoped they’d grow larger over time.

Then, as I left the garden center one day I walked by another table of herbs.  I thought there’d be nothing among those leaves to entice me—now the proud owner of herbs I knew how to cook with and some I didn’t.

I almost passed by without even looking, but as I did a breeze blew through and I caught the hint of the most heavenly scent ever.

It was a tiny pot of peppermint.

I fell in love.

Over the years, some of those miniature $2 herb plants have overtaken my garden.  The rosemary has invaded the entire back left corner.  I keep cutting it back and still it grows undeterred.

The basil last year towered over my six-year-old daughter and made me crave Italian food every time I climbed the steps to my back door.

Then there’s the peppermint.  It quickly spread and overtook every available space in the right corner of my garden plot.

Now, as I sit here typing away next to an open window, I can smell the scent of fresh peppermint even with the gentlest breeze.

I’m pretty sure heaven smells like peppermint.  And if the aroma of heaven is sweeter than that, it’s aromatherapy at its greatest.

There’s no “if” about it, though.  We know for sure that God has His own brand of Scentsy and His own favorite aroma.

And believe it or not, it’s sweeter than fresh peppermint dancing in a spring breeze.

The Bible tells us that in heaven there are “golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (Revelation 5:8) and that:

“Another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel” (Revelation 8:3-4).

Our prayers are being mixed with incense and wafted before God’s throne all the time.  It’s the cries of our heart and the pleas for grace, the humble praising of His name, and the intercession on behalf of others that fills the throne room.

They are a continual offering to God, a sweet-smelling sacrifice that brings God joy.

This, then, is truly my heart’s desire.  I want to smell nice for God.

Sound foolish?  Perhaps it seems silly at first.

And yet, what I really mean to say is that I want to be pleasing to Him.  I don’t want to be the foul odor among the incense of the saints’ prayers. I don’t want to be the one lone stench among the sacrifices offered up to my God.

I want Him to receive my prayers with pleasure and to take joy in the life I offer to Him, in the planned prayer times spoken at my table, in the heartfelt cries I send up to heaven without premeditation, and in the thousands of conversations and the running dialogue I carry on with Him every day, all day.

This isn’t a mystery, either.  We aren’t left to guess what life-scents God enjoys and which of those He finds distasteful and nauseating.

In Exodus and Leviticus we read that the sacrifices burnt on the altar before God could be a “pleasing aroma” to Him (Exodus 29:18, Exodus 29:25, Exodus 29:41, Leviticus 1:9, Leviticus 1:13 . . . ).

When offered with obedience, these burnt offerings brought God pleasure.

Yet, God told the Israelites “if in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me . . . I will lay your cities waste and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your pleasing aromas” (Leviticus 26:27, 31).

Lives of disobedience and idolatry became the stench of garbage and death before God.  He held His nose at their offerings and didn’t receive their sacrifices.

So when you choose to obey Him, even when it doesn’t make sense and doesn’t fit into your five-year-plan, you are spraying on the perfume of the God-life.

When you pray with humility, when you commune with Him continually, and when you offer up praise, your prayers drift through heaven like peppermint on a breeze and like the candles making my living room smell like honeysuckle on a summer’s eve and my bedroom like gardenias in bloom (my favorites!).

This has become my prayer for today and the days ahead, that the life I lay on the altar before God, the offering up of my actions, my words, my thoughts, and the hidden motives of my heart, will be acceptable to Him.  And that the prayers I place at the feet of His throne are a pleasing aroma of incense to my God.

With David, we pray:

Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!  (Psalm 141:2)

and

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14)

Amen.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her 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