A Message for Monday

My resolution for today:

To breathe in and breathe out, deep taking in of peace and pushing out of contentment.  No catching my breath in anxiety, hyperventilating stress, and rushing to the point of breathless exhaustion.

Just breathe.  Move through the day without giving into the push, push, push of “faster, more, do, accomplish, check off the list, get it done.”  Walk as I vacuum, walk as I put away the clothes.  Make that phone call without simultaneously folding underwear and t-shirts.

And spend time with Jesus for relationship not for task-completion.

The temptation is there, of course.  It’s the curse of Monday.  All of the spillover from last week, the messages to read through and answer after taking a Sabbath from all of that “connection” over the weekend, and the new tasks ahead clamor at me for attention.

What was that email I needed to send?
Wasn’t there someone I needed to call?
What did my kids need for school today?
Was I behind on my reading, my commitments?
Didn’t I need to print this for the week and pack that for tonight and fill out that form and mail back that letter?

It’s a million tiny things nipping at the heels of my Jesus-focused life, yipping and yapping until I turn my attention from Him.matt11

And then when I do sit down to rest at His feet, dear Father, oh my Father, I am so thankful to be in Your presence ….

Still I fail.  Still I pop up every few minutes for the ding of the laundry and the starting of the meal in the Crock-Pot (must give it 6 to 8 hours to cook!), and the reminder of something else needing to be done.

My time with Him becomes stilted, becomes stale, becomes necessary without being the fresh oxygen in my soul I need for very survival and beyond that, the abundant life He promises.  Necessary only because it’s an assignment, like homework for school.

It’s more like: Read the assigned Bible reading.  Check.  Read the passage in the study for this week’s group discussion.  Check.  Complete the other Bible study . . . while interrupted and racing against the clock:

Must…..finish…..so…..I…..can….check….this….off…..my…..list….and……do…..other…..things.

I wonder if He’d prefer if I just skipped it all rather than flop down at this kitchen table half-hearted and thinking about 50 things clearly more important than He is to me in that moment.

This isn’t relationship.  This is business.


In his book, Prayer, Richard J. Foster wrote:

“Today the heart of God is an open wound of love.  He aches over our distance and preoccupation.  He mourns that we do not draw near to him.  He grieves that we have forgotten him.  He weeps over our obsession with muchness and manyness.  He longs for our presence…

We do not need to be shy.  He invites us into the living room of his heart, where we can put on old slippers and share freely.  he invites us into the kitchen of his friendship, where chatter and batter mix in good fun.  He invites us into the dining room of his strength, where we can feast to our heart’s delight….” (p. 1)

Maybe that’s my problem.  I’ve been barely acknowledging His presence at times at my kitchen table.  Perhaps I should take up His invitation to hang out in His kitchen.  To eat in His presence and share in good company and the intimacy of friendship, not on my terms, but at His offering.

In a similar way, Joni Eareckson Tada writes:

 “God always uses such intimate language when He relates to us.  He paints warm images of sheltering us under His wings, holding us in the palm of His hand, or drawing us close to His breast.  He’s so personal with us, why shouldn’t we be with Him?” (Diamonds in the Dust, p. 288).

At the Last Supper, the apostle John leaned against Jesus, drew in close and rested against the Savior, even while realizing that Jesus was about to be betrayed (John 13:25).

Why be more like Peter, who in shame and frustration, perhaps even anger at the destruction of his plans and agenda, certainly in fear…”followed him (Jesus) at a distance” (Matthew 26:58) after Christ’s arrest.

Sure, I’m always following, I’m a faithful kind of girl, trailing after God always.  But sometimes I’m just stepping into the imprint of His footsteps rather than walking by His side, following out of obedience only, mostly out of distracted busyness and duty.

Today I resolve to breathe in and breathe out, to linger here at the table with Jesus and lean into His presence.  No rushing up from the meal to pursue my own agenda.  No skimming through the page of Scripture to get to the end of the assigned reading.

Leaning into Jesus.  Breathing in and breathing out.  Then walking side by side with Him into my day, not tripping along behind: holding His hand and chatting along the journey.

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, was released in November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Weekend Walk: Baking Cookies/Reading the Bible

Bake cookies.

It was on the official to-do list.  Sometimes we pull down the flour and sugar canisters and pull out the measuring cups and spoons because of a sweet tooth or just the fun of baking together.

Today, though, it was a must instead of a can, a have to instead of a get to, a duty and not a pleasure.

Bake sales, after all, require baked goods and cookies were to be our offering.

So the mission began, emptying cabinets of cookie cutters and dragging out the flour and rolling pin.  Looking up from the recipe, though, I saw this cutie pie rolling herself out like a cookie and giggling hysterically.

Suddenly, there was joy just in being together, in the pure delight of presence.  We took turns rolling out the dough and cutting out cookie shapes of hearts and flowers, butterflies, pumpkins and fall leaves.

Time in the kitchen so easily becomes a chore, cooking for necessity and baking on a deadline.

But moments together need to be rescued from task lists and enjoyed: Giggling over ourselves covered in flour.  Teaching how to push the rolling pin across the dough.  Recalling shared stories.  Kissing tiny noses dotted in sugar.  Admiring our goodies fresh from the oven and then sampling them as they cool.

So, when I pull down my Bible from the shelf and open my study book onto my kitchen table (still dusted with flour), it’s tempting to read to get it done, to check it off for the day and set it aside again until tomorrow.

“Devotions” is on my to-do list also.

Time in God’s presence, though, should be our joy and delight and the very life-breath to our suffocating souls.  Never just a task on a to-do list waiting for the line crossing it out, time with our Lord should beckon us and fill us with longing for more.

Our verse for the week reminds us to delight in His Word and center our lives around this relationship with our God rather than relegating it to the outskirts of our time and hearts:

 But they delight in the law of the Lord,
    meditating on it day and night.
 They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
    bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
    and they prosper in all they do (Psalm 1:2-3 NLT).

Take pleasure in His presence.

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.  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 © 2012 Heather King

Weekend Walk, 05/05/2012–Stressing Over Stupid Stuff and an Undivided Heart

Hiding the Word:

It was all stupid stuff and it all stressed me out.

That afternoon, we spent too much time in the school library during the family reading time because my kids wouldn’t stop reading, which normally makes me grateful, but that afternoon made me a bit frustrated.

Then, while changing into her ballet clothes, my oldest daughter asked me to help her untie the knot in her laces.  “Sure,” I said, holding out my hand for one ballet shoe.

Instead, she plopped two ballet shoes into my hand that she actually had tied together last week because “it looked like fun.”  She was still giggling a week later.  I was not.  Now the slender laces of her slippers were pulled together in a knot that would have made any sailor or Boy Scout proud.

Zooming out of the school bathroom, across the school parking lot and into the mini-van, I still picked at the knot on the shoes unsuccessfully.  When we arrived at ballet, I reached into the bag to pull out the bobby pins and hair net and the other jumble of hair accessories we tote around in order to pull my daughter’s mass of princess-like hair into a perfect ballerina’s bun.

They were gone. We had left them all piled on the bathroom sink at the school.  I tugged a ponytail holder out of another daughter’s hair, made the messiest bun of all time on my oldest girl’s head, and ran into the ballet studio.

I asked the lady at the desk for scissors and held up the attached ballet shoes apologetically.  She haplessly searched for scissors—which she couldn’t find because of course most people don’t need to cut the laces of their ballet shoes before class.  Fortunately, a nice man with a pocket knife slashed the laces apart so I could run the shoes into my daughter, already poised at the barre and pointing her toes.

And so it went.  There were bigger stressors that day.  There were other petty annoyances still to come.  The crazy whirlwind of it all left me dizzy and exhausted, but I knew one thing was true:  Nothing that day was worth the frustrated attention I was giving it.

Nothing there was life-threatening or mattered in the eternal way that some things matter.  They were silly and foolish worries, just pests that nipped at my heels and made the simple treading through my day difficult.

Would less stress have made it all better?  Would untied ballet shoe laces or un-lost hair accessories have improved my day? Perhaps.

But what I really needed, what I usually need, isn’t a more smoothly running life with less obstacles and bothers.

I need the eternal perspective that only Christ can give, the reminder of what really matters now, what will still matter 20 years from now, and what God and I will agree matters when I’m hanging out in heaven and worshiping at His throne.

That’s the perspective Paul writes about in Colossians and it’ll be my verse for the week.  I encourage you to copy it down, pray over it, meditate on it, memorize it and ask God to help it change your perspective this week when life gets hard or even slightly tiresome or stressful.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (Colossians 3:1-2).

Weekend Rerun:

One Heart And Mind
Originally published April 21, 2011

“Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name”
Psalm 86:11

Multitasking is my spiritual gift.  Somehow the Apostle Paul left that off of his lists in Romans, Corinthians and Ephesians.  Even if it didn’t make the Biblical list, some of you share this gifting with me.  You mop the floor, do laundry, type emails, care for children, talk on the phone and make dinner all at the same time.  What can we say?  It’s a talent.

Usually my multitasking works quite well for me and truthfully I am sometimes bored when I am simply keeping one ball up in the air instead of juggling several.  But there are those moments, I’ll confess, when I open my pantry cabinet to find that I accidentally put the frozen broccoli away there and when I open up the freezer, there are the spaghetti noodles.  It’s a sure sign that I have too much going on and things are starting to fall apart.

Multitasking may work for me (most of the time) as I clean my house or plunge through my to-do list each day and yet its a choking hand of death on my quiet times with God.

This morning I sat at my kitchen table, my place for meeting with God every day.  My Bible was open and ready, my journal and pen set to the side waiting to be used.  My cup of tea was steaming hot, strong and sweet.  Everything I needed to spend some focused time with my Savior was at my fingertips.  Everything was prepared—-except my heart.

I was distracted.  Distracted a little by projects and to-do lists, the phone and the emails left unanswered.  Distracted by my children asking and asking for help.  Distracted a little by frustrations and situations needing to be handled.  My thoughts drifted to all of those things as I read the words on my Bible’s open page.  Words that normally hold power and relevance for me, the living and active Word of God, now made dull by a scattered heart and an unfocused mind.

Not wanting to give up, I prayed over Psalm 86:11.

Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name” (NIV)

and in the Message:

“Train me, God, to walk straight; then I’ll follow your true path.  Put me together, one heart and mind; then, undivided, I’ll worship in joyful fear” (MSG).

I prayed, “Lord, create in me an undivided heart.  Put me together, one heart and mind—wholly focused on you.  There are so many things vying for my attention, captivating my heart, stirring up my emotions, and setting my thoughts wild.  Please fill me and focus me so that You alone are my heart’s desire.”

It’s not a magic formula, a mystical incantation that somehow brought clarity out of chaos.  No, it was a confession of desire.  A request for God’s strength in my weakness.

I am a forgetful and distracted creature, and I need the help of my God to cut through the clutter and noise so that I can pay wholehearted attention to Him.  That’s why David writes this verse as a petition to God.  He knew He needed heavenly help also.  He asks for God to “give” Him an undivided heart or, as the message says, to “put him together” so that he can be receptive vessel, prepared to hear and receive God’s teaching and training.  David knew He couldn’t achieve an undivided heart on His own.

And yet, I didn’t just pray this prayer and then sit down to the best quiet time ever, full of revelation and inspiration.  It took effort on my part to reject and discard the jumble of thoughts that kept popping into my mind.  I had to stand guard over my heart and not allow it to take my focus off God’s Word.

When I suddenly remembered an item for my to-do list, I jotted it down on a piece of paper and returned to Scripture.  When I started rehashing what was frustrating and upsetting me, I cut off my thoughts and whispered a quick prayer that God would take care of that situation.  And I returned to Scripture.

It was work, but it was worth it.

Paul prayed for the Thessalonian church, “May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.  May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).  By asking God to give me an undivided heart, I was making a similar petition.  I was allowing Him to sanctify me (make me holy) through and through—spirit, soul, and body—and this brings me peace straight from the God of peace.

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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

One Minute Devotional – Devotions From My Garden: Underneath the Dirt

I cleaned out my garden last week, clawing at the dirt to extricate the weeds, moving plants around, and spreading mulch.

It turns out that the miniature roses that I thought would stay, well, miniature, grew far larger than I ever expected.  They are dwarfing all of the plants behind them.  After years of watching these rose bushes grow exponentially each season, I’ve finally realized that “miniature” just means the size of the bud—not the size of the bush.

So, I finally broke down and moved one of the rose bushes to the back of the garden where it didn’t look like anything was growing.  But it’s March and many of my perennials and summer bulbs haven’t poked their heads above ground yet.

Sure enough, I pushed my trowel into the dirt only to overturn a bulb.

I guess something was growing there after all.

In the garden and in life, it’s so often the hidden things we can’t see that produce the life we do see.

In his devotional book A Year With Jesus, Eugene Peterson wrote: “Jesus’ work was not always public, out where people could see it.  There were also quiet interludes of retirement and rest.  The quiet asides are as characteristic of his ministry as the glorious signs.”

Jesus not only valued the moments of solitude and quiet, but He also called His disciples away when they were weary from service:

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest
(Mark 6:31 NIV).

What is “characteristic” of God’s work in you?  Is it just the visible that matters?  Is it the Sunday masquerade or the busyness of church life?  Is it committee meetings, ministry sign-ups, the quantifiable and the identifiable?

Don’t mistake this.  We are to serve God where He has called us to serve.  We shouldn’t linger on the pew when He’s asked us to step out and get busy.  Be assured that He will equip you and strengthen you when you act in obedience.

But don’t scorn the quiet, hidden work of God, either.  Don’t get so wrapped up in doing that you fail at being at the feet of God.  The Master Gardener may be growing something great in you just beneath the soil, something beautiful that you haven’t yet seen.  And it begins with you sitting before an open Bible, with your prayers laid down at His feet, with your songs of praise during the morning commute.  It begins in the hidden places alone with Him.

More Devotions From My Garden:

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

Marthas Anonymous

For those reading Lisa Harper’s book, Stumbling Into Grace, along with my small group, today’s devotional will match up with her tenth chapter, “Busyness Isn’t a Spiritual Gift.”

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Fourteen years in women’s small groups and I’ve never once heard someone confess to being a Mary rather than a Martha.

We sit around the table at what might as well be Marthas Anonymous and confess, “Hi, I’m Heather, and I’ve been a Martha now for as long as I can remember.  I’m always busy, can’t seem to sit still and don’t enjoy resting.  I don’t watch TV without something to do at the same time and feel best when following a to-do list.”

I’ve heard the same confessions for years.  What I’ve never heard is, “Hi, I’m Jane and I’m a Mary.  I have no trouble at all dropping whatever I’m doing just to hang out with Jesus.  I’m totally fine if others are working in the kitchen while I sit at His feet.  Priorities for me are never a problem–Christ always comes first.”

That’d be the day!

And while we confess to being Marthas as if we recognize it’s a problem, at the same time, there’s a little bit of pride there.  Pride at being productive and busy.  Pride at being the one to take care of others.  Pride at the fact that people can depend on us to get things done and that we’re necessary to others.

That’s what the busy life does for us—feeds our self-esteem and reminds us that we’re important.

Yet, while we always pick on Martha as she grumbled to Jesus that her sister, Mary, wasn’t helping enough in the kitchen, it’s not Martha’s activity that was the problem. Someone did in fact need to feed Jesus and the disciples lunch and some Ramen noodles or boxed macaroni and cheese wouldn’t really cut it when feeding a crowd of at least 13 traveling evangelists.

Busyness in the kitchen wasn’t necessarily Martha’s issue and it isn’t always ours either.  It’s fine to dream wistfully of hour-long quiet times, but reality doesn’t always allow for that.

Someone has to do your job.  Someone has to mop your floors, do the dishes, make the phone calls, cook the dinner, fold the laundry, play with the kids, read the bedtime stories, and direct the homework.

No, the problem isn’t always a matter of what we’re doing.  It’s a matter of the heart.

For Martha, the first stumble came when she complained about someone else’s lack of activity.

Oh, how often we take it upon ourselves to judge the choices of another, making us angry accusers and our target the burdened recipient of our disapproval.

Imagine if Mary had hopped up at Martha’s griping and headed begrudgingly into the kitchen.  She wouldn’t be serving dinner because God had instructed her to do so.  She would have been serving out of arm-twisted obligation rather than answering a divine call.

There’s no blessing, no peace, and no rest when we serve outside of God’s will.

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

When we walk in step with Christ, trodding only where He is leading, we can feel the true rest of dependence on Him and the freedom from performance and accomplishment.

Martha’s next problem was thinking that it was all or nothing.  You either work in the kitchen or you listen to Jesus.  You can’t do both.

Surely, though, she could have been listening to Jesus while she stirred the soup at the stove.  We also can bring Jesus into the moments of our day.  Pausing for five minutes to breathe deeply and utter a prayer of need.  Singing praise to Him while we drive and meditating on Scripture as we wash dishes.

Martha also had an issue with making time. Setting aside the dishes for a half an hour, she could have lingered at Jesus’ feet and then returned to her labor when He had gone.

In the same way, even when we don’t have time, we make time.  No one is too busy for God.  We choose to make His presence our priority, even if it means shutting off the TV, not answering the phone, taking a “Mommy time-out” for 15 minutes, reading the Bible during our lunch break, or delegating tasks to others.

Life crowds out time with God.  It always does.  We must be vigilant to demand those moments with Jesus. They will not happen by accident.

In Stumbling Into Grace, Lisa Harper wrote, “He teaches us . .  to slow down and recuperate after giving our all for the sake of the gospel.  To find a balance between going out and doing and being still and knowing” (p. 119).

Are you a tired Martha? Accept the rest that Christ offers you in His presence.  Return there as often as possible, taking a minute when you need it and an hour when you can. Don’t expect to be energized for eternity.  He gives you enough for today, for just this moment, and we bring that renewal back into our all of our activity.

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.