When You Can’t Do Over But Have to Move On

We’ve been giving do-overs here at my house.

Snarkiness has been on the rise.

So, when we hear, “Move!  I can’t see!”

We respond with, “You want to try saying that again in a kinder way?”

Or we hear, “Put that down!  That’s mine!”

We say, “Try that again.  I’m sure you could say that differently.”

I love do-overs.

I love the utter grace of it all, that even though you made a mistake, you can have another go at it.  Maybe you’ll do better this time.

Learn from those errors.  Make some corrections.

Maybe this time you won’t miss or forget.  Maybe you’ll study harder or speak with kindness or choose not to gossip.

My hope is that the do-overs now will help those lessons sink in before it’s too late, because we all know you can’t always have a do-over.

Sometimes, bad things happen and once it’s done, it’s done.

A missed opportunity can’t be regained.

One day, those words will slip out and they’ll be said.  You can’t take them back.

Sure, you can apologize.  You can attempt restoration.

BUT WORDS ONCE SAID CAN’T BE UN-SAID, AND THE COLLATERAL DAMAGE FROM AN OUT-OF-CONTROL TONGUE CAN BE DEVASTATING.

In those moments when you can’t have a do-over, though, you have to learn a new skill:  Moving on after you’ve messed up.

Shame from mistakes can drag us right down and bolt us to the floor.  We can’t move forward.  We’re chained to the past.

At night, I rumble through conversations I wish I’d handled differently.

I consider the mistakes I wish I could un-do and the decisions I wish I could un-decide.

It’s hard to let it go and just rest already.  I keep thinking, “if only….”

If only this hadn’t happened….

If only I’d done this instead…..

I want a do-over.  I want to rewind back to the start of the day and just try again.

But I can’t.  So I replay the wrong over and over and over.  I’m stuck in a perpetual loop of embarrassment and self-condemnation.

Paul makes this sound so easy:

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14 ESV)

Just forget what’s behind, look forward to the future and move on?

If only it were that simple!

Then I consider Paul’s words, how he’s straining forward and pressing on.  This is discipline and endurance.  This is refusing to get bogged down.

It’s falling down in the middle of a race and yet choosing to push to your feet and keep on going to the finish line even if you’re limping all the way there.

Surely this is how David felt after being confronted with his own sin of adultery and murder.

One bad decision led to another bad decision and now here he was, unable to have a do-over.  He couldn’t un-commit adultery with Bathsheba.  He couldn’t un-murder her husband.

But he prays for God’s mercy, for God to “blot out my transgressions.  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! (Psalm 51:1b-2).  He asks God to:

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me (Psalm 51:9-10).

This I understand.

When I’m weighed down by mistakes that I can’t do-over, I’m compelled to cry out for “mercy!”  I rely on God’s grace to wash my soul and renew my heart for Him.

But then David does something more.  He doesn’t just stand there in the cleansing flood of grace.  He doesn’t keep re-hashing his need for mercy.

No, he begins to look forward.  He talks of moving on.

This is where I lean in to David’s Psalm today, because too often I’m stuck in the cry for mercy and can’t shake the shame.

Yet, David prays:

 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
  and uphold me with a willing spirit.

 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    and sinners will return to you…

and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness (Psalm 51:12-13, 14b)

HE’S FINDING MERCY IN THE MESS, RECEIVING RESTORATION, LEARNING FROM HIS MISTAKES, TEACHING OTHERS, AND WORSHIPING GOD FOR THIS SALVATION-GIFT.

I have to choose to accept the grace, too.

I have to choose to forget the past.  Every time my face heats up with shame, I remind myself that it’s done.  Over with.  Behind me.  Forgiven.

I have to choose to move on, choose to learn and grow and worship and teach others.

And the next time I’m reminded of how I messed up, I make all of those choices all over again because even if I can’t do over, I can do better next time.

Originally published April 2016

The past can’t be my home anymore

It’s not often I  zip  around town in my minivan alone.

I’m usually toting a passenger (or two or four or more).

But that night, the stars had aligned and the schedule had been arranged and all of those things so that I hopped into my minivan after some errands in town and headed home.

I drove.

And thought.

Thought.

And drove.

Prayed and thought and drove.

I was just enjoying the sweet quiet as only  a mom of four kids can do  when she’s out by her lonesome self.

It should only take me about 5 minutes to  get home from  anywhere in town now that we’ve  moved to  the new house, but I drove for about 12 minutes before I turned onto a familiar road.

It wasn’t the road to my brand new home, though.  I had managed to  drive far past that, all the way to my old house.

I  sheepishly turned around in my former neighbor’s driveway and backtracked down the road to  what was supposed to  be my destination all along.

HOME.

If I don’t stay alert  even now when I’m making this drive,  I’ll pass right by the road to  my new house and I’ll  trek all the way back to  where I used to  live.

This is me in default mode.  This is what I  fall  back to.

This is where I end up when I’m not paying attention.

We all have these  “old ways,” the habits of the past, the “who we used to be.”   And when we’re distracted, or weary or plain old apathetic, maybe this is where we end up all  over again.

Maybe we default to worry and stress.

We default to overbooked and overwhelmed.

We default to bitter and unforgiving.

We default to resentful.

We default to people-pleasing.

We default to sharp words.

Maybe we don’t even realize it until we look up in a daze and wonder how we ended up back here all over again?

It’s when I start feeling complacent about controlling my tongue,  that I start losing  my temper and lashing out.

It’s when I start feeling like I know how to  keep myself from getting overwhelmed by stress that I just about break down because I’ve let the to-do list nigh on destroy me.

We’re not alone, of course.  This is all just being human.  We’re not perfect and those old sin habits can drag us right along.

That’s why I feel  for the disciples who  kept defaulting to old habits and old ways of thinking.  No matter how many times Jesus explained how He’d be persecuted and killed and then raised again, they didn’t get it.

They didn’t see with spiritual eyes.

There was a day when they set out on their travels with Jesus and forgot to pack the bread for lunch.  Jesus told them to watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees and they completely missed his message…again.

They thought Jesus was picking on them for leaving the bread at home by mistake.

As i f Jesus needed them to pack bread.

They’d watched Him feed the five thousand and the four thousand, but one day without a full lunchbox sent them right back to that old place of fretting over provision.

Jesus asked them “Do you not yet perceive?”  (Matthew 16:9 ESV).

The Message paraphrase says,  “Haven’t you caught on yet?”

And that’s me at times, defaulting back to my old ways of thinking and doing, not quite catching on yet to what Jesus has done in me and wants to do in me.

What we do then, though, is what matters most.

Because what I want to do is just give up right there.

I’ll never get this right, Jesus. 

I’m such a failure, Lord.  I’m failing at everything.  I want to be used by you and I just….keep….messing….up.

But we can’t give up right there because that past isn’t meant to be our home anymore.

Slowly.  Slowly.  We keep turning the old over to Jesus and letting Him make us new.

Slowly.  Slowly.  He changes us within so our default itself is different.

We default to peace.

We default to joy.

We default to gentleness.

We default to trust.

It’s okay to be in progress.  It’s okay to trip up and mess up sometimes.

It’s not okay to stay there in that old place where we don’t belong anymore.

We have to move back to Jesus, always back to  Jesus.

Jesus, bring us back to you.

 

Saying sorry while blaming the other person isn’t really apologizing

psalm 32

There’s an art to apologizing.

We’re still learning that art here at my house.

There’s this one key ingredient I’m looking for: Honesty.  Genuine repentance.  True sorrow.

I tell my kids, “You have to mean it.”

The battles start young and they surely are battles.  It seems so simple.  I tell the raging toddler, “Say ‘sorry'”

There is screaming and stubborn refusal.  Jaw tightens.  Fists clench.

The truth is, it isn’t simple.  Even a two-year-old knows that it’s never easy to confess, “I was wrong.”

Never easy to fess up, own up, and step up to your own personal responsibility and admit weakness or error.

That’s pride.

It gets the best of us.

Sure, as the kids age, they learn the basics.  No more time outs and threats of punishment and discipline for a lack of apology.

They technically have learned to apologize.

But they’ve also learned how to twist that apology into a sharp-edged weapon.

It’s sneaky, but I’m on to their tactics.

“I’m sorry that you weren’t looking where you were going and tripped on me.”

“I’m sorry that you’re crying drove me so crazy I had to be mean to you.”

“I”m sorry that you never leave me alone when I tell you to.”

“I’m sorry that you always get what you want and that makes me so angry.”

I’m sorry……that this is all really your fault.  You made me do it.  You, you, you.

It breaks this momma’s heart.

Surely it must break God’s heart, too, not just to hear my kids apologize without really apologizing, but to hear me entangle myself in my own bit of guilt-shirking.  He hears how I can twist myself up in knots to justify my own sin.

We can make excuses.  We can point fingers at others.  We can blame circumstances.  We can drown out the Holy Spirit with the noise of our own protests.

But here’s what Paul said:

For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death

Godly sorrow.  That’s what we should have.

Sin breaks the heart of God and it should be breaking our own heart, as well.

Truth is, as a mom, I pray that guilt and godly sorrow eats away at the heart of my kids so that they can’t stand it anymore; they just have to burst out a confession.

I want them to be able to say, “This is what I did wrong….”

I want them to know the freedom of true, genuine, honest, heart-felt repentance like David did:

When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away
Through my groaning all day long.

For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.
Selah.

I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I did not hide;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”;
And You forgave the guilt of my sin (Psalm 32:3-5 NASB).

It sounds cruel, perhaps, but if my kids are clinging to sin, I hope it groans within them all day and night and they feel feverish with guilt and heavy-laden with conviction.

May it be so for me, too.

I’ve been thinking about Peter lately.

Other disciples mourned Jesus’s death.  It’s true.

But Peter grieved all the more, losing His Savior while coming face-to-face with his own sin of betrayal that nailed Christ to that cross.

The Gospels tell us all about it.  They tell how Peter stood at the fire in the courtyard of the High Priest.  They tell all about the three people who identified him as a Jesus-follower and how he blustered out a denial.  They describe the crowing of the rooster and Peter’s desperate tears of deep, deep sorrow for his sin.

How did the Gospel writers know?

How did Luke know?  How did John know all these details so he could write them all down?

How did anyone other than Peter and Jesus know that Peter had totally blown it?

Peter must have told them.  Not just a general confession either. “I sinned.”  He told the whole ugly truth.

He didn’t keep it to himself.  He didn’t cover it over and hide it away.  He didn’t pretend it didn’t happen or make excuses for himself.

Peter didn’t compare himself to the others who had run away that night and figure, “Hey, maybe I’m not so bad after all.”

He confessed.

He repented.

He humbled himself enough to say, “I’m sorry.  This is what I did wrong.”

And that moment of sincere, honest, lay-it-all-out-there confession allowed Jesus to make a new Peter, a leader-of-the-church, humble, teachable Peter.

We bring the mess to Him; He brings the mercy.

And He makes us new.

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 © 2015 Heather King

Drop the stuff to take a picture of the butterfly (and maybe climb a tree)

She saw him there first, sunning himself on those purple flowers, showing off his yellow and black wings.

We hadn’t taken even two steps out of my front door when she shouted and rushed right over.

Two steps out the door?  I was still shifting the weight of the baby carrier against my knee with the diaper bag slung over my shoulder and a bag of library books weighing down my other hand with my keys between my teeth.10170989_696172120430028_1187591291338040542_n

And she’s spotting butterflies.

We stopped.  We emptied our hands so we could take pictures and enjoy one spring butterfly in the warmth of the sun.

But if she hadn’t been there, would I have even seen?  Would I have paced right by that flower bed from front door to minivan in 0.3 seconds?

And, if after a month of looking for beauty I’m still so apt to miss it, then what exactly am I missing?

I go back to the beginning, back to what I know.

God is both Beautiful and the Creator of Beauty.  The Psalmist said:

From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth (Psalm 50:2).

So when I seek out the beauty of what He has made, I worship Him, I enter into His presence, and I can glimpse those hints of eternal perfection—the scent of Eden in the here and now.

David wanted this, too.  He wanted to seek out the presence of God and if he could have just one thing, it’d be this:

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple (Psalm 27:4).

I want His presence, His beauty, to be my ‘one thing,’ my passionate pursuit, my eyes-on-the-prize, single-minded, totally focused, never-wavering-for-a-moment ‘thing.’

So why then do I walk out of my front door and need my eight-year-old daughter to see that butterfly on those purple flowers?image by Rudy Bagozzi;

Because my hands are full?

Because my mind is busy?

Because my heart is heavy?

Yes and yes and sometimes (but not always).

What if there’s something more?  I have to at least ask the question.

Isaiah said:

 “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you” (Isaiah 59:2).

What if something blinds us to His face?  What if we’re trying to see and trying to see, but it’s just impossible?

Don’t you love Zaccheus, though?  This tax collector tried to see Jesus and tried to see Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd.

He could have given up, called it a day, headed on home, took a raincheck on a visit to the Messiah.

But no.  He hiked up his robe and scrambled up a tree.

I’m no tree climber.  Never really was.  But now?  A 30-something mom of 4 kids?  What a mess of clumsiness I’d be grabbing branches and hoping they’d hold my weight.

Yet, what if Jesus stopped and looked at that tree and called Zaccheus down because it was just that crazy?  He knew that this sin-filled tax collector was the one man in the crowd who was willing to make an utter fool of himself and do any wild bit of craziness just to see Jesus.

Face-to-face with so much grace, standing right there in Jesus’ presence, Zacchaeus could do nothing less than repent and change (Luke 19).

In Acts it says,

Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19 NASB).

If I want the refreshing of His presence, then it starts with the repenting and the returning.

So, what am I willing to do to see Him?  Skin my knees on tree bark and climb on up there?

And when I’m there at His feet, is there anything I need to lay down and be willing to change?

A bad attitude?

Bitterness?

Self-pity?

Selfishness and Self-focus?

Pride?

Jealousy?

Disobedience?

Unforgiveness?

It’s not legalism or getting all tangled up in reminders about how sinful I am.

It’s about seeing the beauty of His face when we discover the beauty of His grace.

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 ‘Enjoy Beauty’?

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

 

Garden Devotions–It’s Crowded In Here

Originally published April 27, 2012

My daughters and I reached a compromise.

I announced that I didn’t want to grow a vegetable garden this year.  It was too much work for too little result.  It didn’t save money.  It started out fun in April and ended up a horrible, rotten, ugly chore by the middle of July.  Various ravenous insects destroyed and devoured my plants.

Their response was unanimous.  “But Ma—awm.  We like to grow our own food.”

So we narrowed down the lists of vegetables we would grow and planted a container garden on our deck.

We filled large wooden crates with garden soil, vegetable food and the tiny plants of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers we had chosen.  Then we dropped the carrot seeds into the dirt, following exact directions on how far down to push them and how far apart they needed to be spaced.

After a while my daughters disappeared to work on their own project. They held out the result to me with pride.  It was a small planter with dirt in it.

“We planted radishes,” they announced, “all by ourselves.”

I shrugged.  The radish seeds were leftovers from last year.  It seemed unlikely they’d grow.  Yet, the girls faithfully watered that pot for days and surprisingly they were rewarded by the first hints of green.

A day later, the pot was crowded by infant radishes.  The girls must have dumped 20 seeds all into the same tiny space in the miniature pot.

It was going to be really crowded in there.

Unfortunately, even though it is hard and a little sad, we now have to make some tough choices.  If all the radish plants remain in that pot, none of them will grow correctly.  Some of them have to come on out of there.

Sometimes our lives are just as crowded as that tiny radish pot.  Every single seedling may have potential for beauty, growth, and produce, but nothing can grow when they are all shoved into the small space of one simple life and the restriction of 24-hour days.

Even though it’s hard and a little sad, there are times when some things have got to go so that other areas of your life can grow to their full potential.

It’s not always a mystery when choosing what to toss.

When Jesus walked into the temple and saw the vendors hocking their wares–doves for sacrifices and loans for people needing money for their offering–He responded immediately.  It didn’t take a second’s thought for Jesus to overturn their tables and chase the mercenaries out of the holy space of the temple courtyard.

He threw out sin, contaminated worship, and the profanation of the holy.

As soon as Jesus cleared the place, the blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them” (Matthew 21:14).

The only reason they could seek healing in the temple, the only reason there was room for the blind and lame to worship, was because Jesus had thrown out the tainted and unholy.

The Message emphasizes this when it says, “Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in.”

Until Jesus cleaned house, there hadn’t even been room in the temple for those who needed God the most.

Will we allow Jesus to overturn the tables in our heart where sin and the unholy have set up shop?  Will we clear out the trash and the disgusting, so that we have room to come to Jesus—and to bring others along who need Him the most?

Of course, it’s not always so easy to tell what has to go in our lives.  We have a million choices of how to invest our time, energy, talents, and money, and all of them could be good.  We could lead hundreds of crusades against a world of evil.

But if we crowd out our lives with too much that is good, nothing will grow as it should.

Jesus Himself exhibited the kind of focus we need, to hone in on our purpose and refuse to be distracted by every demand and need.

During His ministry, mobs of people sought out Jesus for healing, and He frequently healed those who sought out His help.

But He didn’t heal everyone.

In fact, when the crowds grew too large and people sought Him out for healing alone, He moved onto another town or escaped the masses to pray alone on a mountain or by the sea.

Healing was fine.  Miracles were part of His ministry.  But it was not His main purpose for coming and He never wanted that to be the focus of His presence.  Instead, He had come to “seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10) and “to save the world” (John 3:17).

Maybe it’s time for you to pull out some of the extra radishes from your pot.  The first ones to go are easy—yank out the sprouts of sin, the unholy habits and the remnants of the flesh life.

Then prayerfully ask God to help you focus.  What seedlings should you tend and invest in until you harvest their potential?  What seedlings need to be set aside so that other areas of your life can grow?

 

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

Dealing With Gnats and Other Problems

She stood at the top of the slide pointing them out to me and I stood at the bottom of the slide smashing the gnats.010

When it’s over 70 degrees outside in the middle of winter, you play hookie from chores and pop your preschooler into the minivan for an afternoon at the park.  We had rushed up the hill to the playground and she tried the swings and the sandbox and the seesaw (which exhausts this mommy who has to do all the see-sawing with my own muscles).

When she climbed to the top of the slide, though, she complained about all the bees…or were they ants?

“Gnats,” I tell her.  Fifty of them at least dotted all along the yellow slide.  The closer you looked, the more you saw.

“They’ll bite me,” she whined.

I reassured her.  Gnats are a pesky, annoying nuisance, but hardly a health hazard or a reason to fear the slide.  But she stood there paralyzed, so I wiped them away.

When she climbed up again for another slide down, though, they were back.  Or, to be more accurate, fifty other gnats had landed.

We repeated it relentlessly.  I smooshed bugs.  She slid down.  She climbed back up.  I smooshed more bugs.

In between, I swatted the pests away from my face.

Like most kids, I spent a week during several summers away at camp and the line for the dining hall there at this camp along the Potomac River stretched outside.  We lined up morning, noon and night for our meals, knowing one thing for sure:

The gnats would drive us crazy.

They swarmed in tiny black clouds around us.  Some of the other girls started walking around with one hand raised up on top of their heads, looking like a rooster with feathers all fanned out.

“Gnats always go to the highest part of your body,” they explained, all-knowing as sixth grade girls always are.

I never was sure if walking around with a hand on top of my head really kept the gnats from swarming around my face.

Perhaps it really was as ineffective as squashing the gnats on the playground slide over and over again only to watch more land within seconds.

But when you’re bothered or stressed, anxious, annoyed, pestered, worried and troubled, solutions are what you seek–no matter how ridiculous or sane.

Unfortunately, sometimes God is the last solution we seek to the messes we find ourselves in.

Certainly for Pharaoh, the pattern of the plagues was clear (at least to us) and yet he was desperate to find a solution outside of God.

Over and over, Moses asked for the deliverance of God’s people.
Pharaoh refused.
A plague of boils, blood, frogs, gnats or worse descended on the Egyptians.
Pharaoh asked Moses to pray.
The plague ceased.

So, when “gnats infested the entire land, covering the Egyptians and their animals.  All the dust in the land of Egypt turned into gnats,” the solution to us seems obvious (Exodus 8:17).

Pray Pharaoh.  Pray hard.  Step down off that mighty Egyptian throne, throw yourself on God’s mercy, so abundant, so longsuffering.  Bow that head and bend that knee in humility to God and God alone and obey His Word.

But that turning aside from self, that relinquishing of personal programs and plans and the solutions you’ve charted out so carefully takes humility.  It means confessing the hard-to-swallow truth.

I can’t do this on my own.

God, please help me.

Even Pharaoh’s magicians exclaimed, “This is the finger of God!”  But he resisted.  That proud earthly king would rather breathe in gnats and swallow gnats and swat gnats away from his face and sleep with gnats rather than rely on the mercy of a Merciful but Mighty God.

Oh, the humbling.  For Egyptians who prided themselves on hygiene and personal cleanliness, the perpetual buzz of pests must have been the ultimate pride destruction.

Still Pharaoh resisted.

Still we resist at times, too. We’re puzzling out our problem and feeling the shame of broken relationships, broken marriages, broken finances, broken lives, broken ministries, broken hearts, brokenness.

And what God wants is for us to just ask Him, to turn to Him first, to confess that we’ve messed up and to do things His way this time.

To pray and pray hard.  To bow that head and bend that knee.  To lay it all out at His nail-scarred feet and say what’s true:

I can’t do this on my own.

God, please help me.

Oh yes, we pray: “Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us, just as we hope in You” (Psalm 33:22 NKJV).

Kyrie eleison.  “Lord, have mercy.”

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

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Today, Not Tomorrow

“I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation”
(2 Corinthians 6:2b NIV).

“I don’t always obey Mom and Dad, but I do obey God.”

It made sense to her six-year-old mind.  Well, sure I might not obey my parents, but at least I’ve got the God-thing covered.

What’s a little family Bible time without some lessons on what this all means?  So, it didn’t take two seconds for my husband and me to jump on this one with a little Scripture quoting: “Children obey your parents.”

That’s what God says, we tell her, so you can’t obey Him without obeying us.

Oh.

I understand what she’s going through because most of us grow too comfy with our own sins and misbehaviors.  We try to justify or ignore, or create some arbitrary system of categories and hierarchies.

Well, I might gossip…..but I don’t lie.I might tell white lies….but I don’t tell all out whoppers.
I might lie….but I don’t steal.
I might steal….but I don’t murder.

The truth, of course, is that we’re all sinners, and sinners don’t just make mistakes, accidentally mis-step, or suffer from minor character flaws.

We sin.

And while we might try to dilute the definition a bit to take the sting out of the conviction, Scripture says, “…everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23b NIV).

We know what sin does, don’t we?  We know because so many of us have dragged that heavy burden along with us, refusing, forgetting, or just plain failing at leaving it behind.  It holds us back.  It keeps our hands encumbered instead of free to raise in worship and to extend in service.

Hebrews 12:1 describes it this way:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us (NIV).

Before we can run forward and make progress in this race, we’ve got to begin by leaving some things behind.  We’ve got to throw everything off that hinders.  We’ve got to un-knot the tangle of sins that are tripping us up.

We’ve got to ditch the load and then run free.

In a new year, so many of us are looking forward to goals and expectations, but we won’t go far without throwing over what has entangled, encumbered and ensnared.

Angie Smith writes, “Part of moving forward is always letting go of what has held us back, and it is never less than a battle.”

The truth is we can’t drag it all along after us and still expect to move forward with God.  We’re inhibited and stuck.

So that worrying….that gossiping….that perpetual busyness and never resting….that sharp tongue…that lack of grace….that lack of faithfulness to our commitments…that pride…that jealousy…that disobedience…that bitterness…that unforgiveness…that fear.

Whatever it is, it’s got to go.

Why not begin letting it go today?

At Women of Faith last summer, Christine Caine taught on the plague of frogs that struck Egypt in Exodus.  The nation was overrun by frogs, just as Moses had warned Pharaoh:

“The Nile will teem with frogs. They will come up into your palace and your frogbedroom and onto your bed, into the houses of your officials and on your people, and into your ovens and kneading troughs.The frogs will come up on you and your people and all your officials” (Exodus 8:3-4).

Imagine frogs everywhere, between the sheets of your bed when you lie down to rest and in your kitchen, jumping all over your food.

That’s too many frogs for anybody!

So when Pharaoh begged for Moses and Aaron to pray that God would end the plague and remove the frogs, they agreed.  They even went beyond that.  Moses said Pharaoh could choose the exact day and time when the frogs would disappear.

Shockingly, he didn’t say, “Right this very second!”  or “Before I go to bed tonight and have to sleep with another creature in my bed.”  He didn’t want it “over with by dinner so I can eat my food without it tasting like frog.”

He wanted the frogs gone, “tomorrow” (Exodus 8:10).

Why did he do this?

Why do we do this?

If God has promised us deliverance, if He’s asked us to leave something behind, if He’s challenged us to lay it down and move forward, why do we linger here?

Why do we endure one more day and another and then again of hindrances and snares instead of letting go?

Today is the day of salvation.  Let it be today—not tomorrow—that we ask God to search our hearts, to know us, to reveal the anxious thoughts and the waywardness and help us lay it down, let it go, so we can move on (Psalm 139:23-24).

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

Veggie Tales, a Rubber Duck, and a lesson on Grace

We have a Veggie Tales system at our house.

My girls tumble all over themselves, hooting with laughter and interrupting one another, to explain to me the very funniest parts of a Veggie Tales video.

And then I tell them how very funny that really is and then how it’s kind of like the Bible account, but here’s “the rest of the story.” This, of course, isn’t nearly as funny as the way singing vegetables without hands have told it, but I give it my best shot.

So, when my daughters finished telling me yesterday how King George, the cucumber who collects rubber duckies, had stolen the only rubber ducky owned by his neighbor, a tiny asparagus…I told them (a slightly modified) Biblical version of King David and Bathsheba.

Skipping the more explicit issues of adultery, I emphasized that King David (err…George) didn’t have Uriah smacked in the face with cream pies. David essentially murdered him.

Why?

Because David wanted Uriah’s wife for himself.

My oldest, my everything-is-black-and-white-without-any-gray kind of girl, wrinkled up her nose in confusion.  “But mom, I thought David was a good guy!  I thought he loved God.”

Oh, and there is the heart of the matter.  That, my sweet girl, is the whole point.

How desperately we try to categorize and define people, sorting them perpetually into good and bad, and ultimately we’re trying to decide who is the hero and who is the villain…who is worthy and who isn’t.

But grace demolishes all these overly simplified judgments, these definitions and categories we shove people into.

That we cram ourselves into.

After all, don’t we even do this for ourselves?  We—I— begin to feel worthy of God’s affection and deserving of His pardon and His sacrifice.  Like I’m one of the “good guys” in this epic story of salvation.

I’m a church girl, not a murderer, after all.

Nothing like David, lusting after a beautiful woman and killing her husband.  Even his failure to take control of his sons and defend the rape of his daughter raises my eyebrows.

Oh yes, there’s ugly sin there, and if we just focused on those portions of his story, we’d easily define him as one of those ungodly kings, too self-focused and pleasure-motivated to be of any use to God.

And yet, he’s the hero of the Sunday School lessons week after week.  The brave lad who conquered Goliath.  The true and loyal friend of Jonathan.  The God-anointed king of Israel.  The poet and musician who penned the words we still sing in worship on Sunday mornings.

He’s a bad guy?  He’s a good guy?

He’s a crazy messed up human, who chose right and chose wrong, but who repented before God.  His testimony can’t be anything other than grace, grace, marvelous grace of a God who always calls the unworthy.

It is because of that realization that David wrote the song of repentance:

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
  Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
(Psalm 51:1-3)

It’s the sobbing out of a man who remembered, oh yes, I am unworthy.

In Luke 14, Jesus tells of a master hosting a banquet.  Those wealthy and important enough to receive an invitation declined to come, too busy making excuses to consider the loss.

So the master invited “the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.”

‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’

“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.” (Luke 14:21-23).

Joni Eareckson Tada writes, “in this parable, the master’s grace is not lavished on the deserving but on the undeserving.  The unacceptable.  Those who shouldn’t be invited…God’s grace is not a response to what men do.  God’s grace is a divine initiative which is totally unconnected to a person’s merit.  And not only is the grace of God an initiative but a radical one that most would consider outlandish if not mad” (Diamonds in the Dust, p. 355)

This is why Paul reminds us:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8)

and

He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy (Titus 3:5).

We too easily slip into complacency, overlooking the glory of the gift He’s given, assuming that we deserve it or somehow our “goodness” merits the affection He bestows.

But we’re the unworthy ones feasting at the banquet table.

And it’s all because of His mercy.  It’s all a matter of grace.  I’m determined to remember that today and to give thanks.

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

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Weekend Walk: A Wayward Cat

We have a wayward cat.

He started dashing out the door for periodic jaunts around the neighborhood long ago.  Whenever we found him crouched in the woods with his bright eyes shining back at us, he’d run into the house and hide for an hour or two under the bed.

Those experiences in the wild scared him to pieces.

Still, he ran away again.  And again.  Today’s adventure is the longest he’s had.  Escaping this afternoon, he’s still not home and it’s long past his bedtime as I write this.

We can never understand why he leaves.  He’s clearly terrified of whatever is out there in the wild.  He’s clearly spoiled here in our home.

And yet he runs.

A man once told me that once a cat experiences the smallest bit of life in the wild, you can never successfully keep him indoors again.

It made me wonder if the prodigal ever thought about running away again after he’d returned to life on the farm and celebrated his homecoming.

When Jesus told the woman, “Go and sin no more,” I wonder if it was as simple as that (John 8:11).  Did her memory of extravagant grace sustain her?  Was it as simple as walking away or did she have to fight for change, falter, repent, and run to Christ again and again?

Paul described exactly this struggle in Romans 7.  He did what he didn’t want to do.  He didn’t do what he knew he should do.  This is the continual battle with our flesh.

Like the hymn writer said, we’re “prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.”

Why do we wander?  Why do we dash out the door at the slightest opportunity and leave the safety and provision of God’s care?  Why risk treacherous territory rather than rest in His love?

After all, as soon as our cat did return home (at 4:00 a.m.) he ran in from the rain to our dry house and was greeted with a can of tuna fish.  You’d think he would understand that home is a better place to be than gallivanting around the woods in the rain sans tuna.

Paul made our choice clear in this same way and that’s my verse to meditate on this week:

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).

You’d think given the choice between death on the one hand and life and peace on the other, this decision would be a no-brainer.  Unfortunately, though, we slip into flesh-thinking so easily—-choosing to dwell on worry and anxiety, jealousy, fear, anger, bitterness, selfishness, greed, and more—everything that leads to death.

This week, let’s focus on having a Spirit-governed mind.  We must choose not to let our thoughts run wild into flesh territory.  We must choose if we want life and peace.

How do you take control of your thought-life?

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.