Moving out, moving on, moving forward

Preschool is done for the year.

My son had been looking forward to all of the end-of-the-year things.  The program.  The last day.  The picnic.

But as we headed out on the final morning of preschool activities, sadness hit him hard:   I want to stay. 

This is his first experience with finishing the year and really enjoying his own summer break, so it’s the first time he’s truly said goodbye to his classroom buddies and considered what it’d be like not to see them a few times every week for  a few months or so.

And that’s a bit sad indeed.

We can look forward to what’s ahead, of course.  His older sisters chime  in with their own reminders that summer is, in fact, awesome.

Then, I remind him that preschool will begin again in the fall and there will be familiar faces and new faces.  It will be worth anticipating.

This works for a moment, but then he remembers again that in order to  move on to the new, he has to  say some goodbyes.  There are some things he has to leave behind.

And saying goodbye….stepping into new places…that’s not always easy.

Sometimes there are assignments and places we make permanent that God intended to be temporary.  We cement our hearts right down and God asks us to be more movable than that.

It’s okay.  It’s good.  It’s necessary.  It’s beautiful even at times to step out of the old, maybe even before we know what new land God has called us to.

We trust Him to show us what that might be.  A land of rest, perhaps.  A land of labor maybe.  A place of new beginnings or maybe one more forward step in this long, connected journey we’ve been on.

The key is remebering that what we’re doing here in this very place is God-led. He could tell us to stay or He could  encourage us to move on. Either way, we lean into His leading.  The blessing is in the obedience.

Me?  I tend to be a permanent foundation builder, in it for the long-haul, committed to hang in and hang on even when God has hinted it’s time to let go.

In the book of Ruth, I find someone else who struggled with making the temporary assignment a permanent destination:

In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land.So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there (Ruth 1:1-2 CSB). 

Elimelek left Bethlehem for Moab “for a while.”  Another translation said he “went to sojourn in the country of Moab.”

Maybe he shouldn’t have gone in the first place, trusting  God instead to  provide right there instead of hightailing it  to foreign destinations.  But, he left, and  at first it was supposed to be a temporary trip.

But then “he lived there.”  The ESV says “he remained there.”

The temporary became permanent for him.  He put down roots.  His sons married Moabite women.  They didn’t seem to have any intention of returning to Bethlehem until death changed everything.  Elimelek and his two sons died, leaving their widows, Naomi, Ruth and Orpah, with some significant decisions.

Elimelek settled and stayed.

But Ruth was willing to move.

She moved to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law despite her own grief.

She moved into the fields to glean and to  provide.

She moved onto a threshing floor in the middle of the night to seek a redeemer.

In her book, “A Woman Who Doesn’t Quit,” Nicki Koziarz says Ruth “stays open to the movement of God.”

This is where I’ve been growing.  I’ve been stepping down and then waiting.  Saying goodbye and not turning around and jumping back into the same-old, same-old.   I’ve been listening more.  I’ve been taking my time and refusing to be rushed  into decisions that others seem to feel have to be made right away.

I’ve been leaning into  God and asking for Him to speak the “no” and speak the “yes” so I will know when to stay or go, put down or pick up, relinquish or fight on, say farewell or begin anew.

It starts with this:  Making sure I’m not turning temporary trips into permanent residences, trusting that God can always move me on and being willing indeed to go.

Living in a Neighborhood 101

Living in a neighborhood is new for us.

My kids have lived  their whole lives in a house on a busy street where cars sped around corners and it wasn’t safe to get your mail out of your mailbox,  much less bike ride or walk to  a friend’s house.   We had neighbors on one side of our yard, but an empty, wooded lot on the other side.

There was no communal place to play.  No sidewalks.   If my kids wanted to see friends, I arranged a play date and drove them back and forth.

When I wanted to  take a walk, I drove into town, unloaded the stroller, walked my son down Main Street and back, climbed back  into the minivan to drive home.

Now, though, we’re slipping into something new: Neighborhood life.

Friendly dogs pop over to  our house for random visits and we say hello to “Abby” the red-haired retriever and “Bruno” the little black and white fellow with the stubby tail from next door.

My daughter rides her bike for the first time pretty much ever and we take walks and wave to  people we know and even those we  don’t.

We call out to others about the beautiful weather when a summer’s evening feels unusually cool and we are blessed with extra tomatoes out of the abundance of a backyard garden nearby.

I feel held accountable to keep up with the garden weeds, even in the heat of July, even when I’m busy, even after a summer rain shower that makes everything grow like a jungle overnight.   No more calling it quits in my yard the first time the temperature hits 90 degrees.

After a week or so in our new house, my husband actually had to explain some neighborhood-life  tips to our kids.

  1.  You don’t have  to  ring your own doorbell when you get home from being outside.  This is your own house . You can just come on in.
  2. Don’t just invite yourself over for dinner at a friend’s.  If they are ready to eat dinner, come on home.

We’re all learning and adjusting a bit.

Maybe learning to  live in a neighborhood is a lesson for all of us.

Maybe it doesn’t come naturally, this staying close, being held accountable,  giving and taking and sharing and caring.

After all,  even Jesus’s followers didn’t always know what to  do.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Great!

But, who is my neighbor anyway and do I really have to love ‘that guy’?

The disciples surely had some growing to do in the neighborhood-life department, too.  They weren’t alike and perhaps didn’t have that much in common outside of Jesus.

They were fishermen and a tax collector, a zealot, and Nathaniel sounds to me like a well-educated skeptic.

Some were related by blood, some were friends, others were outsiders.

And, as people in close  proximity are wont to do, they fought over superiority and responsibilities and decisions.

What drew them together wasn’t their “sameness.”  It was  simply going where Jesus was going, following where Jesus led them,  working together as a team to  minister as Jesus sent them out.

They were fellow-travelers and “bunk mates.”  Surely, they had to learn to be each other’s neighbor along the way.

In the Old Testament, Ruth declared her never-ending,  stick-to-it loyalty to her mother-in-law Naomi like this:

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God (Ruth 1:16 ESV).

This is what she promised :  “I’ll go with you.”

There can’t be many sentences in this life more powerful than that. 

Not just “I’ll pray for you” or “I hope you have a nice trip” or even “I’ll watch your stuff until you get back.”

Not that.  This:  I’ll pack my bags and put on my walking shoes and I will  go with you.  

The disciples traveled together.

Ruth and Naomi traveled  together.

Who is  traveling with you?

Stacey Thacker writes,

The presence of a friend can encourage us to not turn back in grief, but to look forward with hope (Fresh Out of Amazing). 

We all need a little  whisper  of hope today and we all know someone who needs us to whisper hope to them.

None of us can traipse along as fellow-travelers with every single person we meet.  We’d be drained and exhausted.

But we can’t  set off all by our lonesome selves  either.

Instead, God draws us to the right people and we choose to follow His lead.  We whisper the words to them….or maybe they whisper to us:  “I’ll go with you.  We can be neighbors.”

When you’re tired of asking everything else, ask Who

Psalm 86-15

My daughters wrestle with my son. They tickle him and bounce him down on the bed.  They invent games, make-up reasons to chase him.

He, in turn, grabs the light sabers and initiates a duel.

They squeal through the house.

But then….

Mom calls the girls to homework time, or reading time, or piano time, or some such other responsible nonsense.

My son’s answer to the abandonment by his favorite playmates?

Scream across the house at the top of his lungs:

Wauren!!!!

Tat-Tat!!!!!

Climb all over them on the piano bench.  Pull at their pencil-holding arm while they try to fill in the homework worksheet.  Yank them up out of the sofa and demand that they chase him again.

Wauren!!!

Tat-Tat!!!

These are the nicknames my son has bestowed on my girls.  Toria (Victoria), Wauren (Lauren), and Tat-Tat (Catherine).

He calls for them all day long.  He summons them for playtime through the afternoon and evening.  He cries for them when they climb onto the bus and when they head off to bed for the night.

Names matter to this two-year-old right now.  He’s learning to get attention (more like demand it.)

And these are the names that matter most: His family.  He knows his Mom and Dad.  He knows these three sisters who adore him.  And he points to his own chest and names himself:  “An-dew.”

I love in the book of Ruth how Naomi asks her daughter-in-law about the first day of gleaning in the fields.

Ruth probably came home tired after the day of working.  Yet, her arms were full of her day’s pickings.  She must have been rejoicing, thankful, excited!

After all, gleaning could be risky for a young woman on her own.  Who knows where you could end up: a field with a dishonest farmer or, even worse, one with a lusty field hand.

But Ruth returns home safe and returns home with abundance.

So, Naomi asks, “Where did you glean today? And where have you worked?” (Ruth 2:19 ESV).

Ruth knows the real answer isn’t about the where.  She doesn’t launch into geographical descriptions or give the name of the farm.

Instead of answering Where, Ruth tells Who: “The man’s name with whom I worked today is Boaz” (Ruth 2:19 ESV).

Kelly Minter writes:

“Isn’t the who always so much more significant than the endless how’s, what’s and why’s we endless fret over? I tend to toil over details, trying to figure out how things are going to work out, where help is going to come from.  It is then that I am most in need of Jesus…”(Ruth).

My son knows what matters most right now is his “Who.”

Ruth knew that her “Who” mattered far more than the “Where.”

Surely we should know the same.

I fail at this so often.

My kids had to ride the bus home from school, something they hadn’t done in four years.  I’ve been picking them up all this time.

So, I fretted over that change in the routine all that day.  I prayed about it and asked others to pray about it.  I watched the clock and distracted myself with activity, anything to keep my mind off what might happen if things went wrong.

I forgot my Who.

My faithful God, the God who loves me and loves my children more than I ever could, can care for them.  I need to trust Him to hold them in His own hands and stop freaking out over the tiniest details as if I’m the one who is really in charge here.

Maybe this is the hardest thing, for a mom to entrust her babies to God.

I want to hover, want to protect, want to plan out every detail and avoid every hurt or disappointment.  I want to combat every bully and avoid every bad influence.  I want to control the conversations on the playground and every detail of their day.

But I need to trust my Who.

I trust in His faithfulness:

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (Psalm 86:15 ESV).

We can worry over countless details every day.

We can sink under the incessant pounding waves of anxiety:

Where are you going to find safety and provision?

How is this all going to work out?

When will this trial be over?

What am I going to do about this?

Or, we can erase all of the excess and get down to the essential:  Whom do I trust?

Who is my God?

He is faithful.  He is gracious and compassionate.  He is able, strong and mighty and oh so merciful.  He is our Provider and our Shepherd.  He is Love.

He is our perfect Father.

We can rest in Him.

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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

 

The Grandest Invitation Ever

Revelation 19I’m guessing I was in middle school.

Really, there’s not much I remember about why I was there or when I was there or even who was with me.  I think it was probably a band field trip up to Pennsylvania for a music competition.

But here’s what I do remember, walking into a large open room surrounded by windows and seeing table after table covered in crisp, bleached white tablecloths, each one set with an elaborate place-setting that included multiple forks and spoons.

I’m just a teenage-ish girl away from home with a bunch of other middle schoolers about to eat at a place far nicer than our normal class trip stops at McDonald’s or Wendy’s.

Even now, I’m the kind of girl who eats at restaurants where kids can get their drinks in styrofoam cups with lids and straws.

(Okay, maybe I can get my drink in that styrofoam cup).

This place was an intimidating beast of a dining room with significant glassware and cloth napkins.

What was I doing there?

I grew up in a home where we learned table manners, so I knew how to put my napkin on my lap and not lean on the table with my elbows.

But, I’ll still never forget that initial feeling of walking into such a fancy place and thinking, “I get to eat here? There’s not some back room for middle school girls from the suburbs?”

Maybe you’ve never felt out of place or like a small and insignificant girl feeling a little overwhelmed and a lot like you don’t belong there.

But I sure have.

I’ve felt uncomfortable and unworthy.

I’ve felt humbled and speechless and afraid to make one wrong move because maybe they’ll figure out the truth: that I’m an imposter who doesn’t deserve to be here.

So, as I was studying the book of Ruth and reading Kelly Minter’s book, I just wished so desperately I could pour myself a cup of tea and this amazing author could pour herself a cup of coffee and we could chat because Kelly got ‘it.’

She got everything about how it feels to be an imposter welcomed to a table.

Ruth 2:14 says:

And at mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over.

Up to this point in the book of Ruth, the author has made a huge, whopping, big deal about the fact that Ruth is a foreign woman. Even worse, she’s a Moabite foreign woman.

She didn’t even deserve to glean in the fields of Boaz and certainly wasn’t worthy of anyone’s notice, especially not someone as wealthy and powerful as Boaz.

Yet, after months of watching Ruth’s hard work and seeing her faithful care for her mother-in-law, Boaz invites her to the table with his employees and blesses her with abundance.

She eats everything she could eat and still had leftovers.

Immediately, I thought of how much this sounded like Mephibosheth, the crippled son of Jonathan whom King David invited to share the king’s table night after night.

(Kelly Minter thought the same thing.  I’m telling you, we were totally clicking that day!)

Mephibosheth was the grandson of King Saul.  When David became king, everyone expected him to kill anyone left alive in Saul’s family.

Instead, David seeks out Mephibosheth and longs to show him kindness.

And, crippled as he was, Jonathan’s son couldn’t even get to the king’s table on his own.

He would have to be carried.

Kelly Minter writes,

I believe we all deeply long to be invited ‘to the table.’ It represents all things that speak belonging, acceptance, and the honor of being chosen. It is a picture of intimacy, conversation, nourishment, and safety (Ruth, p. 76).

You and I, as unbelievable as it may seem, are invited to a table of abundance.

Revelation 19:9 says:

Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb (ESV).

How blessed indeed are we as believers to receive this invitation?  Christ Himself spreads out a feast and asks us to come to the table.

It’s an invitation we don’t deserve, not on our own merit or strength anyway.

We’re like Ruth—foreigners.  We’re the lowly and the poor.  We’re the outcasts and the outsiders.

Like Mephibosheth, we’re crippled and broken and we can’t even make it to the table all on our own.

We need Jesus.

He covers us with His righteousness.  He dresses us in the pure robes of His forgiveness.

And, He bids us come and eat.

“Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory” (Revelation 19:7 ESV). 

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

 

The Early Riser Who Isn’t a Morning Person

psalm 30-5My son is an early riser who really isn’t a morning person.

That means most days, he wakes up at the first hint of light and then grumps about it for the next hour.

Most of my kids have gone through this phase of waking mom up too early.  Over time and with training, most of them grew out of it.

Although, I do have one daughter who is simply a morning person.  She can bounce out of bed far too early and jump all over the house cheerfully with a running monologue about everything she wants to do that day—all while I’m laying back down on the couch to avoid fully waking up.

She’s always been like that.

Not my son.

The other day, it was the worst ever.  He woke up.  He woke me up.

Then, he yelled about everything he asked for.  Cereal.  Drink.  Blanket.  Curious George, Mickey Mouse or Thomas the Tank Engine.

He asked.  I gave.  He screamed.

Finally, I lifted that tiny bundle of morning-angst right up, set him into his crib and told him we needed a restart.  We’d try again in a few minutes.

Sure enough, about five minutes later, I once again greeted his sweet face with a “good morning” and a fresh start.

Bless his heart, that boy had started the day determined to be in a funk.  But a ‘restart’ button on the morning was what he really needed.

Maybe we do, too, sometimes.

Our emotions, they can overwhelm and overpower us.

And, while God created us with these feelings to be indicators of how we’re doing as we navigate the big wide world of life, He didn’t mean for those feelings to trample us underfoot.

Still, there are days that instead of bossing our feelings around, we feed those little monsters until they’re towering beasts.

We feel sadness, and we feed the sadness, giving into melancholy, reading sadness, listening to sadness, watching sadness, talking about sadness.

We feel anger, so we feed the anger.  We ‘vent’ and rage, we call our friends and get riled up all over again, we make speeches and post on Facebook.

In her book Wherever the River Runs, Kelly Minter writes:

“A high school student recently told me that she actually enjoys being sad, writing in her diary for hours about how she and her boyfriend continually break up and get back together.  She was like a melancholy teenage moth admitting her attraction to the sparkly light of drama.  I looked at her and as lovingly as possible said, ‘You’ll get over that’”

I remember those days.  Somehow when you’re a teenager, melancholy feels good because that’s when you know you write the best poetry.

But here we are all grown up and mature and I haven’t always truthfully gotten over that.

Some days, I let my feelings run crazy and pull me right along with them.

In the book of Ruth, we meet a woman named Naomi who endured great tragedy.  If anyone had the right to feel despair or sadness or deep grief, it’s her after losing her husband and two sons while living in a foreign land.

Yet, Naomi had a choice:  Give In or Find New Strength.

After she trekked back home to Bethlehem, she made a speech to her old friends:

“Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.21 I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?” (Ruth 1:20-21 ESV). 

Her sorrow engulfed her whole identity.  She couldn’t be Naomi any more.  Now, she was Mara–“bitter.”

She was giving in.

She spills out the intensity of how it feels like God has abandoned you—The Almighty…The Lord…has done this to me, has dealt bitterly with me, has brought me back empty, has testified against me, has brought calamity upon me.

Oh, how so many of us have felt this also, that somehow–even though we know it isn’t true–it feels as though God has abandoned us or, even worse, set Himself against us.

In her Bible study, Ruth, Kelly Minter writes:

“Although there will be weeping in this life, the direction in which we weep is what truly matters” and  “What we do while we’re weeping makes the difference” (p. 22 and p. 45).

She calls it “weeping forward.”

It’s not staying stuck.  It’s not allowing grief to subsume us.

It’s choosing to get up each new day and confess all that sorrow to God, not faking or pretending everything’s great, but choosing this:  Choosing to overcome.

Choosing fresh starts and new mercies.

Choosing to keep going.

Choosing, if we have to, to weep forward.

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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

The Post Where I Finally Cave and Drink the Pumpkin Spice Tea

Psalm 68

I’ve finally caved.

I held off as long as I could, longer than I ever have before.

But I’ve done it.

I’ve taken down the summer wreath from my door, the one in nautical blue and white stripes with seashells and an anchor.

In its place, I slipped up the fall wreath, a sign to everyone who comes to my door that I’ve finally accepted the end of summer.

Mostly.

Usually, I’ve baked two or three batches of pumpkin bread, ginger spice cookies and pumpkin pie by now.  Maybe I’ve made baked apples in the Crock-Pot.

Not this year.  Not one pumpkiny, gingery, cinnamon-heavy, apple-based dish so far.

But I did finally pour the steaming hot water into my mug with a pumpkin spice tea bag as a treat before bed.

pumpkin spice

And, I’m stocking up on baking supplies and the chocolate, graham cracker, and marshmallows we’ll need for S’mores.

I stopped burning the honeysuckle and wildflower scents in my wax burner and pulled out ‘cashmere’ and ‘apple spice.’

Maybe I’ll even make this all official by unpacking my leaf-and-pumpkin decorations and dotting them around the house.

Fall is my favorite season.  I could be happy in sweater weather all year long.  The pumpkin patch is my happy place.  Baking season is heaven to me.

Walking among the crunching leaves, tucking away acorns and pine cones as treasures, smelling the scent of fireplaces carried by the wind, is deeply healing to my rushed soul.

But this year, unlike any year I ever remember, I’ve been holding onto summer with both hands, my feet firmly planted.  The calendar is all-out dragging me along and you can see the grooves in the dust where my feet refuse to move.

School is in session, but I’m pretending it isn’t. I’m going through the motions: homework, agendas, reading logs, packing lunches. But my brain is still thinking beach, daytrips, rest.

I can’t recall any time I’ve gripped so desperately to a passing season.

And there’s the thing, the essential truth in all of this: These seasons, they do pass.  It’s this inevitable moving on in life.

Usually, I’m a move-on kind of girl.

Sometimes, though, we are so trapped by looking back that we’re missing the beauty of now.

Maybe that’s me.  Yesterday, it was 66 degrees outside for my morning walk.

Perfection.

Yet, what if I stubbornly refused to enjoy it, whining and complaining all the while about the lack of bathing suits, a water park, and the long summer nights?

Well, I’d miss this, of course.  I’d wake up one morning to temperatures below freezing, I’d be hurled into snow days, icy road conditions, and the layers and layers and layers of clothing I’d need to put on my children before sending them out to the school bus in the morning.

Maybe we hold onto seasons because we don’t like change.  Any change.

Maybe we just ‘know’ that what’s coming isn’t as beautiful as what’s been.

Maybe I woke up one morning after my oldest daughter’s ninth birthday 9 and realized I’m halfway to her leaving my home and heading off into independence and college and a world with less mom in it.

So, what mom wouldn’t want summer to last just a little bit longer when that same girl is now starting her last year in elementary school?

But I read this in the Psalms:

May the Lord be praised! Day after day He bears our burdens; God is our salvation. Selah (Psalm 68:19 HCSB).

Day after day, God is at work in me. Day after day, He is bearing burdens for me, lifting me up, helping me forward, walking alongside me.

This daily gift tells me that anywhere I go, any season I’m in, every time I leave something behind and begin anew, He is right there with me.

The blessed place isn’t where I’ve been; it’s anywhere He is.

I’ve been re-reading the story of Ruth lately, how she left her home in Moab and traveled to Bethlehem, to a foreign nation and a strange people with her mother-in-law after the death of her husband, her brother-in-law and father-in-law.

She could have stranded herself in mourning or imprisoned herself in the past.

She could have arrived there with Naomi and holed herself up in her room, crying from homesickness and wallowing in loneliness.

Instead, when she arrived in Bethelehem, she asked Naomi:

“Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain…” (Ruth 2:2 ESV).

She fully engaged in the act of living in this place at this time in this very season.

She basically pulled out the pumpkin spice tea, nailed up the “bless this harvest” sign, and baked a loaf of pumpkin bread.

So, that’s what I’m doing, too.

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

Traveling Companions

On Tuesday nights, I sit at a table with other women, Bibles open.  We ask—What’s going on in your life?  What does the Bible say?  Where are you headed?  Where have you been?  What do you need?  How can I pray for you?

It’s a safe place, an encouraging place, a challenging place, a growing place, a grace place, a truth place.

I love these women, each so uniquely designed by God with pasts so different, but hope in Christ the same.  They are my traveling companions.

And this is what we need, really.  Community.  Strength from relationships.  Just how far would Naomi have made it in her travels if Ruth hadn’t insisted on packing a bag for the journey, too?  Naomi —A hurt woman, weighed by age and life, far from her homeland, changing her name to Mara—“Bitterness”— and trekking back to her people, her nation, her God.  Widow Naomi.   Now childless Naomi.  Without Ruth, Naomi would probably have been buried along the pathway, lost and alone.  With Ruth, came strength, companionship, blessing.  A new home.  Food from Ruth’s work gleaning in the fields.  Redemption by Kinsman-Redeemer Boaz through Ruth’s marriage.  And a place in the lineage of King David, of Jesus, through Ruth and Boaz’s son.

All because of tenacious friendship, of shared pain and faith, of the self-sacrifice of one friend to another.

Then there’s Elijah.  The bold and courageous prophet who, in the showdown of all showdowns against 450 prophets of Baal, had demonstrated God’s glory before all the people of Israel.  Fire from heaven consumed a sacrifice soaked and an altar pouring over with water.   The people “fell prostrate and cried, ‘The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!'” (1 Kings 18:39, NIV).

Immediately after this victory, Queen Jezebel threatens to kill him and “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.  When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness” (1 Kings 19:3-4, NIV).

Elijah’s mistake was in the traveling alone.  He ran to Beersheba—the southernmost portion of the land—and then he left his servant and ran for another whole day by himself.  Alone.  No companion to speak truth into his heart.  No friend to share his burden and pray with him and point him back to God.  No accountability.  No encouragement.  No truth-speaking.  No love.

It’s what happens when we journey without a traveling companion.

And so Elijah sat on a mountain, dejected, depressed, overcome with fear and grief and bitterness.  God met him in that place, talked him out of the cave and down off the precipice.  The very next thing God did was give him a friend.

So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat . . . Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him…Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant (1 Kings 19:19-21, NIV).

Elijah needed Elisha.  Partner, friend, servant, apprentice.

Not just any traveling companion will do, though.  Who we walk with determines where we go.  Some make the journey harder or full of obstacles or lead us astray to shortcuts and paths unknown.

Just ask Abraham.

Abram and Sarah didn’t set out for Canaan alone.

Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there.   Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Harran (Genesis 11:31-32, NIV).

God called Abram out of Ur, told him to pack his bags and get going on a journey at God’s direction.  And Abram obeyed, taking his father, Terah, and his nephew, Lot.  But, something happened along the way.  It’s a mysterious blank.  We can’t peek into the windows of the family tent and overhear the discussion.  Something happened and they stopped before reaching their destination. 

They didn’t just check in for an overnight rest in the Motel 8.  They settled there.  And when Abram’s dad passed away, that’s when the journey began again.  That’s when God called Abram once more and told him to keep moving forward on the path that had so mysteriously been interrupted.

Sometimes our traveling companions convince us to settle with less than God’s promises.  They look around at what the world has to offer and find fertile land and a good place to dwell. Pitching their tents, they urge us to make this our home.  Not God’s best, perhaps, not all that God has planned for us, but surely good enough.

The Apostle Paul, though, knew how to choose a traveling buddy.  Paul with Silas, singing praises in the prison in the night.  Paul with Barnabus–the Encourager—set aside for ministry to the Gentiles.  Paul and Timothy–building a church, building church leadership.

And Paul and Titus.  In 2 Corinthians 7:5-6, Paul wrote to the church, “For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn–conflicts on the outside, fears within.   But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus” (NIV).

Paul was the apostle who told us all things work for the good, to rejoice always and again rejoice, to be content in all circumstances, that God can supply all our needs, and do abundantly and immeasurably more than our wildest dreams.

Still, Paul was frightened at times, too.   Just like you and me, he had his moments.  God didn’t punish Paul for lack of faith or chastise his weakness.  Instead, God provided for a need.  Paul needed a traveling companion to bring comfort and encouragement in dark days.  Titus was God’s answer to Paul’s fear.

Paul knew this truly.  He usually traveled in partnership.  He had written: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ… for each one should carry their own load” (Galatians 6:2, 5, NIV).

It seems contradictory at first.  Carry each other’s burdens.  Each one carry their own load.  But there’s a difference here.  Paul says each one of us should do our own daily load of life, the everyday, the things we can handle.  Do it yourself.  Don’t lay your everyday over the back of someone else and kick back and relax while they struggle.

Burdens, though, are meant to be borne in partnership.  In community with each other, we lift up onto four shoulders what is far too heavy for just two.

That’s the way God designed us—to travel together.  Ruth with Naomi.  Elijah with Elisha.  Paul with Titus, with Silas, with Barnabas, with Timothy.  You and me, heading to Canaan, to Christ-likeness, to abundant life, shifting burdens onto backs along the way and laying them down at the cross together.  Alone we will not make it.   Together, though, we journey past obstacles, depression, fear, and discouragement, to our hoped-for destination, our Promised Land.

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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 © 2011 Heather King