How Can I Dance in Worn-Out Shoes?

 

She tells me they fit.  “Ballet shoes need to be that tight,” she says.

I’m looking at the worn-out gray of the leather where she’s danced and danced on that shoe, and I’m thinking it’s been two years probably since I bought them for her.

Maybe she’s the dance expert, but this momma knows too small when I see it.20140404-130817.jpg

When you have to crinkle your whole foot up to cram it into the shoe and then whisk your finger back before it gets trapped behind your heel, that means it’s time to let those beloved dance shoes go, baby girl.

So, she plops down onto the bench at the studio reluctantly and I tell her to show the teacher and let the expert decide.

About two minutes later, we start pulling out new shoes to try on and we have to skip size after size to find one that finally fits correctly.

I wonder this: Am I cramming myself right down all squashed and painful into life that doesn’t fit anymore?  Habits I’ve outgrown?  Ministries I need to let go?  Behaviors I need to put behind me?

Am I stubbornly holding onto what isn’t working just because it’s here, because it’s known, because the ill-fitting discomfort of this seems better than the unknown with all its newness and risk and…dare I say it….change?

Am I saying I want to know Christ more, be more like Him, follow Him more closely, but then stubbornly clinging to the same-old, same-old patterns of faith and even sin?

Jesus saw this man, crippled for 38 years, lying out by the pools of Bethesda, the miracle waters they said, the place where the lame, the blind, and the paralyzed congregated in hopes of a healing.

The man didn’t cry out to Jesus to “have mercy.”  He didn’t have friends carry him on a stretcher and lower him down through a roof to get to Jesus’ feet.  He didn’t ask for healing at all, not like others in the Gospels who were desperate to get to Jesus.

This man laid by the pool of Bethesda, just laid there because he’d lain there so long.Photo by Ruud Morijn;

It was Jesus who initiated the miracle, and He began with a question, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6 NIV).

Did he want to get well?  Wasn’t he there at the pool of Bethesda and hadn’t he been there so long?  Wasn’t this what you did when you needed a miracle? 

Of course, he wanted to get well!

Yet, we can say all the right things, make all the right promises, repeat all the good-Christian phrases and still miss the honest truth:

That maybe we don’t want to get well.

Not really.

Maybe we don’t want to know Him more,  don’t want to be healed, to be transformed from the inside out, to obey Him, to follow Him wherever He leads.

If we did, wouldn’t we be desperate to be at His feet?  Wouldn’t we be screaming loud enough to be heard over the crowd, “Have mercy, Son of David!!!?”  Wouldn’t we be begging friends to bring us to Christ and crawling on our hands and knees through a crowd of people just so we could brush the corner of His robe?

Instead, too often we lie there and wait for God to come to us.

And when Jesus does come and He asks, “Do you want faith?  Do you want healing?  Do you want to know me more?  Do you want to follow me?”

We can act all offended.  Pretend like the answer is obvious. We can make excuses.

The man said, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me” (John 5:7 NIV).

Maybe this was genuine, hopelessness, lack of help.

Or maybe it was justification, excuse-making, avoiding what radical obedience might cost him.

Either way, Grace invited him in.  Grace held that hand right out.

Do you want to get well?

And isn’t that Grace?  Never belligerent.  Never forcing, demanding.  Always inviting. 

Then, when we accept, Jesus gives us the next step.  “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk,” He said.ask-me-anything-lord_kd

The man obeyed.  He stopped waiting, stopped making excuses, and he grabbed that mat up and walked right out of there. 

Today, let’s put aside the ill-fitting, worn out shoes we’ve been cramming ourselves into.  Let’s stop doing what we’ve always done.  Let’s stop justifying the inactivity.

And let’s run hard after Jesus.

Let’s be unashamed and relentless in our pursuit of Jesus and the healing work He wants to do in our life, our hearts, our minds, so that He can look right at us and all that we’re doing to get to Him and know the answer without even asking.

Do you want to get well?

Yes, Lord, and Amen.

 Want to read more about the questions God asks?
Check out my book, Ask Me Anything, Lord, available in paperback and for the Kindle and nook!

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

 

Ask Me More: Why are you afraid?

I wake up from the nightmare.

It’s about 4 a.m. maybe.  I can’t see the clock without my glasses, so I guess at the time.Female with head bowed in front of sunset sky

Dreams always remain hazy for me, but I remember what finally startled me awake: my daughter in the dream crying out, desperately broken, desperately sad.

It’s the second time I’ve dreamed about this one baby girl of mine being hurt, and I can’t shake the terror in the night or my helplessness.  It’s just a dream and yet it seemed so real.

I could do everything right as a mom and still get it wrong.  I could do everything right and still I can’t protect them all the time.

So, it’s 4 a.m. and I’m lying there still in the darkness just praying:

“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus….. Have mercy….”

O Lord, I remember Your name in the night (Psalm 119:55a)

I pray it over each of my children by name.  Pray until my heart calmly slips back into its normal rhythm.

And I sleep.

The next day, my family drives to church and unloads from the minivan in a stead stream of King family members.

But my other daughter lingers, hiding her face, and I see how she’s turned her back to the door.  She’s been crying.

I lead her out by the hand, whisk her off to a quiet place and when I wipe those tears off her cheek, I ask her, “Why are you crying?”

She sobs it out and I try to interpret the shoulder heaves and breathy story.

We’d been listening to the song Blessings by Laura Story in the minivan.  What if your blessings come through rain drops, what if your healing comes through tears?

And she watched her baby brother’s smiles and the way he cooed at her all the way to church and she thought, “What if something happens to him?”

She was afraid.

We tried all morning to help her overcome the anxiety of what-if’s and hypotheticals and the wondering, “how could I ever survive?”

Until finally, I whisper into her ear as she bows her head low….Look, I get this.  Your mom has been a fearful person.  I know what it’s like to be afraid.  But you don’t know that anything bad will ever happen.  You can’t miss out on enjoying the present for fear of an unknown future.  The only thing you do know is that God loves you, God loves us, God will be with us. 

I give her these two choices, cut through all of the possibilities and the confusion, the philosophy, the emotions.

Here it is.

Just this: Fear or faith?

And I think how I need this myself, as a woman, as a mom.

I can live in fear or I can live in faith.

I can parent in fear or I can parent in faith.

The disciples rocked violently in the wind of a Galilean storm on a boat they knew how to handle expertly.  They were fishermen, well-versed in weather and weathering the storms on that sea.

But they were scared that night.  Terrified even.  This storm exceeded their ability and expertise.  They could not survive alone.ask-me-anything-lord_kd

And where was Jesus?  Sleeping while they struggled?  Ignorant of their need?

They woke him and poured out frustration and fear in a torrent of accusation, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38).

So, Jesus spoke to the waves and wind and they obeyed Him and settled into a calmed hush of stillness.

Then he turned to those still-shaking disciples, dripping wet and exhausted from their battle with the storm.  He didn’t lecture them or give a sermon on His power or His mission.

He didn’t command that they also hush and be still.

Instead, He asked them a question:

Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40 NASB)

Fear or faith.

Those are the only options.  That’s what His questions mean.

The disciples felt justified in their fear, perhaps.  Surely they should be afraid when an overpowering storm threatens to capsize their boat and drown them all.

But Jesus pushed beyond their excuses and reasoning to reach the real issue: We can’t be afraid and full of faith at the same time.  It’s an either/or state of being.

Ray Stedman reminds me that even when damage seems permanent and disaster imminent:

One, the boat will not sink; it cannot sink when the Master of ocean and earth and sky is in it. Two, the storm will not last forever.

And that’s faith; it’s returning to what I know instead of worrying over the unknown.  

So, I choose faith over fear this time.  But it’s a journey.  I must choose faith and choose faith and choose faith, not just once, but every time I’m tempted to question God’s presence, His love, or His power.

Want to read more about the questions God asks?
Check out my book, Ask Me Anything, Lord, available in paperback and for the Kindle and nook!

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

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

Ask Me More: When Anger is Justified But Not ‘Right’

One of the hardest parts of writing a book isn’t always choosing what to put in; it’s choosing what to leave out.

So, when I wrote Ask Me Anything, Lord, I had to choose which questions God asked in Scripture that I would include in the book and which ones I couldn’t.

That was tough.  In the end, I trusted God to lead me and even had to cut out some of my very favorite questions in favor of others I felt He wanted me to cover.

But now, I’d like to share some of the other questions with you in a series on the blog: Ask Me More.

And, if these questions intrigue you, please check out my book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Lives to God’s Questions for a deeper study on how we can let God search our hearts with the very questions He asked others in the Bible.

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She’s angry, that’s obvious.

Anger transforms my blond beauty into a furious mess.  Her face burns red hot and tears sting her eyes and cheeks.  Her long hair escapes hair clips and ponytail holders and frizzes out all wild and untamed.  She stomps around as if her feet alone weigh 50 pounds each and her whole body closes in—her fists clenched, her arms crossed, her chin buried into her chest.

It’s her sense of justice that typically sends her into a fit.

This is right.

That’s wrong.

And I’m going to fight to prove it.

She gets that from her dad.  It’s one of the reasons I fell in love with him.

And, normally it’s the beauty in her, too: this absolute willingness to defend justice and truth no matter what it takes or costs.  One day maybe she’ll advocate for orphans and for the oppressed and she’ll be a mighty force on their behalf.

But sometimes, she doesn’t see the whole picture.  She is, after all, only eight years old, and when you’re eight, you don’t know as much as you think you know.

That’s why she assumes a fighting stance when her four-year-old sister munches on an ice cream sandwich.  How come she gets a treat?  That’s not fair!  I talk my crusader down off the ledge and remind her that she hadn’t even asked.  Why get angry when my answer would be yes?

And why rage over whether or not I punish her younger sister often enough?  It must be that she doesn’t trust me as a mom to discipline well, to show grace when needed, and to teach my children what is right.

I understand.  Don’t I sometimes rage myself over my own causes?

Don’t you?

Lord, why are you blessing them and I’m struggling?  I’m the one trying to be obedient and live the righteous life and they aren’t following you at all.  That’s just not fair!

Lord, did you see what they did to me?  Did you see how cruel and unfair, how they slandered and lied and spread the muck to others? Can’t you strike them with lightning or something?

Anger isn’t wrong in itself. We can fight with that same righteous indignation of Jesus cleansing the temple grounds of con men and scam artists.

But sometimes what we claim is righteous indignation really is not trusting God to see truth, to defend us, to care for us, to show mercy when mercy is needed and justice in its time.

That was the prophet Jonah, sitting on the outskirts of Nineveh in a foul mood all because God showed mercy to an entire nation when they repented following Jonah’s hellfire and brimstone proclamation.

This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen’ (Jonah 4:1-3).

He raged about God’s character, spitting out the words that should be worship as angry accusations instead:  I knew it.  You’re merciful, compassionate, slowly angered, abounding in love.

God could have defended Himself.  He could have given Jonah his wish and killed the frustrated prophet on the spot.jonah4

Instead, he used a question to dig out the mess of unforgiveness in Jonah’s heart and reveal God’s own character of compassion for the lost.

God asked:

 “Is it right for you to be angry about this?”  Jonah 4:4

It did seem right and just.  Nineveh was the enemy of God’s people!  They had destroyed Jonah’s friends and family! Surely they deserved revenge, not grace!

But God didn’t let the prophet linger there in hatred.  He caused a plant to grow overnight to shade Jonah’s hot head (in more ways than one!).  Then, when Jonah rejoiced over that plant, feeling somehow that he deserved God’s favor and blessing, God sent a worm to chomp that plant right down to nothing.

Jonah raged again.

And again God asked the question:

“Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?”
“Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!”  (Jonah 4:9)

God pressed in, challenging how Jonah cared more for a plant than for a nation of 120,000 lost people.  He shifted Jonah’s perspective and He urged Jonah to trust Him.

That’s what’s at stake for us, as well.

When we’re angry, can we still trust?

When anger seems justified, can we still lay our right to rage down at God’s feet and leave it all in His hands?

And as we do, we worship: You are merciful, compassionate, slow-to-anger, full of unfailing love.

Yes, Amen, Lord.  Your will be done even in this.

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 now available!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Remembering: Even If He Does Not

 

Originally posted on February 20, 2011

 

Today, the sermon at our church was on miracles and how God uses them to bring glory to Himself and to grow faith in us.  It is always exciting to recount what God has done and give testimony, both Biblical and current, to His might and majesty.

But, today was a hard day for me to talk about miracles.  I’ve been praying for two years for a sweet baby girl, born terribly premature.  She’s fought so hard for so long, receiving a liver transplant, undergoing open heart surgery, and more.  Yesterday, though, I got the phone call saying she had passed away in the night.

Yes, it’s a hard day to think about miracles.

It’s not that I think this was too much for God or that He didn’t love this little girl enough to give her another miracle in her already miraculous life.

The hard thing for me is that I’m a question-asker.  In any room at any time, I am usually the one asking the most questions.  I am willing, sometimes even with people I hardly know, to ask them far more than the superficial sanctioned small-talk.  I’m not a “How are you doing?  Where do you live?  How’s the weather been?” kind of person.

Thus, as I’m praying for the family of this tiny girl, I’m bold enough to ask God some tough questions.  It’s at times like these I’m thankful that He is such a big God, that He allows us to lift our pain-filled faces up to His, look straight into His eyes, and ask Him, “Lord, why?  What are you doing in this situation?”

When one of Jesus’s closest friends fell sick, his sisters, Mary and Martha, sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick” (John 11:3, NIV).  Surprisingly, Jesus didn’t rush to their home to heal Lazarus.  In fact, by the time Jesus arrived, Martha greeted him along the path:  “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  Then Mary went out, fell at His feet and said exactly the same thing,  “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21, 32, NIV). Some of the bystanders even bluntly asked, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” (Luke 11:37, NIV).

These sisters didn’t hide their confusion and hurt and Jesus didn’t rebuke them for confronting Him.  In this case, Jesus quickly answered their questions.  He called Lazarus up from the tomb and displayed His power over life and death.  He asked a question in return ,“Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:40, NIV).

The prophet, Habakkuk, wasn’t like most of the other Old Testament prophets, who delivered messages from God.  Instead, much of what Habakkuk wrote is full of questions for God, just as Mary and Martha asked questions of Jesus. In his brief book, Habakkuk asked:

  • How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save?  Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? (Habakkuk 1:2-3)
  • Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves? (Habakkuk 1:13)

After presenting a chapter-long list of complaints to God, Habakkuk says, “I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint” (Habakkuk 2:1).  And God answered Him.

For us, sometimes it does become clear why God chooses to answer “no” or “wait” to our heartfelt pleas for a miracle.  I can look back now and see how God used my husband’s job loss and temporary unemployment not just for God’s glory, but ultimately for our blessing and benefit.  What seemed like harm, was actually salvation for us!

In other cases, though, our questions remain unanswered this side of heaven.

When the three Hebrew men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to bow down to and worship King Nebuchadnezzar, they faced instant death in the fiery furnace.  The king offered them one last chance to deny their faith and worship him instead.  To this, they replied:

“King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

What faith!  The miracles aren’t what we should be seeking; we should be seeking God and hoping for whatever brings Him glory.  If He rescues us, then we praise Him.  Even if God doesn’t give us the miracle we’re looking for or provide for us in the way we expect, we can, like the three men in the fiery furnace, still worship God alone.  We can trust His hand.  We can know that somehow He will be glorified even in our tragedies.

When God answered Habakkuk’s tough questions, the prophet was moved to write what my Bible notes is a “hymn of faith” (Habakkuk 3:17-19, NIV).  It’s one of my favorites:

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.

Habakkuk says, “Even when we’re starving and we have no hope of a harvest, we’ll choose to praise God.”  The Message translates verse 18 as: “Counting on God’s Rule to prevail, I take heart and gain strength.” It’s when we walk through the hard times with God, counting on His rule to prevail, pouring out our questions to Him and learning to trust Him, that He gives us the toughened, sure “feet of deer” and trains us how to “tread on the heights.”

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

Copyright © 2012 Heather King