Do I Look Dead to You?

Originally posted April 11, 2012

It’s Spring Break here in the King house and we’re enjoying time together and starting each morning slow.
This week, I’ll be sharing some devotions from the past as I take time for my family.

After we’ve packed the cooler, dressed everyone in bathing suits and sandals, double-checked the bag for diapers, towels, tissues, Band-Aids (for blisters), sunscreen, and more, and then loaded every last item and person into the mini-van, we have the same-old chat with our girls as we drive to Busch Gardens, the amusement park near our home.003

First we begin with the safety reminders, about strangers, about wandering away from us, and what to do if you get lost.

Then we remind them that we aren’t buying every snack, toy, or novelty item strategically scattered along our path through the park.  And no whining when it’s time to go home.

We finish up with the “friends speech.”   It goes something like this:  You are sisters.  God designed you to be best friends.  Don’t ditch your sister so that you can ride in a boat or car or dragon or whatever with some random stranger who you’ll never see again.

This last speech generally elicits the most protests.  My girls are friendly people.  They like to meet new kids and form what they are certain are life-long bonds of friendship while standing in line at Busch Gardens.

So, it was no surprise that during our spring break outing, my middle daughter stood in line for a ride and then announced, “Mom, I made two new best friends!”

Not just friends.  Best friends.

And how did she know these two new girls were now her bosom buddies for life?

“They told me their names, Savannah and Julia.”

That was it.  The loyal bond formed simply by exchanging names.

Friends, best friends, nice people you’ve only just met, a stranger whose name you’ve learned, sisters, the person you thought was your close friend but who gossips about you behind your back  . . . it’s a mesh of relationships they haven’t quite figured out yet.

As difficult as this is, even though life is busy, complicated, hectic, and hard, and investing time in those loyal friendships seems an impossible task, still Scripture tells us this is one investment that’s worth making.

We need a friend who loves sacrificially, and for whom we likewise will sacrifice.  Jesus commanded us to “love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends”  (John 15:12).

We need a friend who remains faithful even when we’re at our ugliest, worn-outest, saddest, and yuckiest, just as it says in Proverbs 17:17 “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

And we need a friend who is not afraid to get dirty with us as we live this resurrection life.

Jesus stood at the entry to the tomb of his close friend, Lazarus.  He heard the weeping of others around him.  His own tears trailed down his cheek.  The crowd scolded him for not coming earlier and healing his friend while there was still time.  The pragmatic folks complained about the stink of death and decay wafting out of a reopened tomb.  Mary and Martha shot hopeless, hurt-filled glances in Jesus’ direction.

Undeterred, Jesus demanded, “Lazarus, come out!”  (John 11:44).  The shocked crowd watched as the dead man emerged from the grave, living, breathing, and walking—alive.

But he moved slowly, maybe a little like a mummy in a sci-fi horror flick that plays on Saturday afternoon television.  He didn’t leap out from the tomb and dance before the Lord with all the joy of a resurrected worshiper.

Instead, “the dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.  Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go” (John 11:44 NIV).

Chris Tiegreen reminds us in One Year At His Feet “When Jesus raises us out of our sinful state of death, there is something left to do before we run free.  The grave clothes must go”  (p. 21).

That’s something Lazarus couldn’t do on his own.  Jesus instructed others to come alongside him and unwrap the linen bindings, the remnants of death and the grave that still had him hindered, trapped, and blinded.

That’s the church’s job.  That’s the job of a loyal friend, who patiently strips away all the habitual sins, guilt, shame, false beliefs, hang-ups, terrors from the past, and hurts that trip us up and slow us down.

Sometimes we simply require a love that doesn’t give up on us.

Sometimes it takes someone holding us accountable with truth and lovingly showering us with grace when we struggle with the ugliness of sin.

Only a true friend skips the flattery and digs past the superficial chicanery of niceness in order to challenge us with a truth and encourage us to change.

Only a friend tells us when they see some of the grave clothes stubbornly stuck to our skin and then lovingly and patiently unbinds us so we can live in the freedom of new life.

We need a friend like that.  We need to be a friend like that, who brings grace and freedom to another.

You can read more devotionals on this topic here:

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Setting Up Chairs and Why This Matters

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up” (Galatians 6:9)

“Who helped lead you to Jesus?”

It was part of the Sunday sermon at my church, our pastor opening up the floor for answers from the congregation.

There wasn’t even time for a more formal pass-the-microphone kind of testimony sharing.  People popped up their hands all over the church and some just called out their answers in tribute to those who carried them to Jesus.

Some mentioned sisters or friends, several Sunday School teachers, a school teacher, pastors and grandparents who had taken them to church.

But overwhelmingly the answers were “My parents.”

In Scripture, that’s part of Timothy’s testimony, too.  Paul writes:

 I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you (2 Timothy 1:5).

If he sat in our church on Sunday, Timothy would have thrown up his hand and said, “My mom and grandma taught me about the Lord.”

It’s one of those moments in life where everything freezes for the slightest breath and you realize something deeply true—“This Matters.”

It’s not always so easy to persevere and keep on keeping on.  When you’re prepping the Sunday School materials week after week …when you’re grading papers and writing lessons….when you’re asking your friend to church for the hundredth time… when you’re just driving kids to church.

Then there are those daily tasks, seemingly unimportant, easily overwhelming, when it’s hard to feel like you’re having any significant impact at all beyond washing clothes and cooking meals.

Most of the Mom-life isn’t deep spiritual lessons and massively important character lessons for our kids.  Most ministry isn’t radical and miraculous transformation.

My children don’t sidle up to me around 4:30 each day, ask me what’s for dinner and hear me preach on the feeding of the 5000 or the Bread of Life or how we should hunger after righteousness.

Usually I just tell them chicken or spaghetti or something I’m going to make up in about 15 minutes that I haven’t decided on just yet but will surely be awesome.

I once heard a youth pastor say that “90% of ministry is setting up chairs.”

Isn’t that true of what we do as well?

Sure, God gives us these perfect moments when our kids ask the deep question and we need to know how to answer with the Bible and with prayer.  Of course, our lives need to be an example of personal faith in Christ.

Other times, though, we’re ‘setting up chairs.’  We’re washing mounds of clothes and matching the socks not devoured by the dryer monster.

We’re filling the cart with groceries and cooking those dinners night after night.  We’re packing lunch boxes day after day and bending over a child’s shoulder to watch her put the final touches of paint on a school project.

It’s jumping up every five minutes when a child calls out, “Mom!” or “Help!”  It’s standing outside waiting for the bus even in the cold and the rain and chasing down children who’ve forgotten their mittens or hats on a frosty day.

It’s losing sleep because of illness, bad dreams, night owls and early birds.  It’s foregoing any attempt at an uninterrupted conversation and occasionally hiding in the bathroom with the telephone just so you can hear what the person on the other end is saying.

It’s shuttling children here and there, cheering from the sidelines of a field on Saturday mornings or snapping photos at a ballet performance.

Setting up chairs–that’s what we’re doing day after every single day.  We’re serving in our homes and communities, schools and churches in hundreds of hidden ways.

Because we love.

We do it because God Himself, the Savior of us all, stooped onto a knee and washed the dust and grime off the feet of His own followers. Then He said, “since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow.  Do as I have done to you (John 13:14-15).

We do it without recognition most of the time.  No onlooker cheers you on for spending your day changing diapers, making meals and giving baths.

There aren’t enough ceremonies to thank the faithful servants who “set up chairs” in our churches every week.

But we can remember in this moment that “This Matters.” We can fold those clothes with a little more joy and prepare that lesson with a renewed sense of purpose.  Because every moment that we’re serving others is part of leading them to Jesus and there’s no greater ministry than that.

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 © 2012 Heather King

Martyr Mom Returns the T-Shirt

Sighing.  I find myself doing it often.  It’s because I’m not a huge fan of interruptions and it’s because I’m selfish and neither of those issues mesh well with life as a work-at-home mom of three young daughters.

So, I sigh.  “Mom, can you?”  Big, shoulder-heaving sigh.  “Mom, I need help . .. ” Deeply dramatic sigh.  “Mom, I’m thirsty.  I’m hungry.  I’m tired.  Can I cuddle?  Can we play Candy Land?”   More sighing.

In her book, Be the Mom: Overcome Attitude Traps and Enjoy Your Kids, Tracey Lanter Ester calls this the “Martyr Mom.”

Do they sell t-shirts for that?

In all fairness to me, there’s something particularly frustrating about apparently hidden “Mom Alarms” on all the seats in the house.  The moment I begin to ease down into the sofa or a chair, a child (or two or three) yells out “Mom!!” somewhere in the house.

Treating service like martyrdom, though, reduces ministry to a burden instead of an honor and a privilege.

There’s neediness around us. Moms respond to cries and sniffles and grandmas to hands lifted up for a hug.  Perhaps at work you’re taking lunch breaks with the girl in the next cubicle over who shuffled in this morning with eyes reddened from tears.  There’s the cashier at the grocery store who needs you to hang up the cell phone and pause for a smile and the friend who needs you to take time for a phone call and a lunch date.

We’re foot washers.  That’s what God called us to be.  He asked us to bend down low, stooping down out of our own agendas of personal satisfaction and busyness, to touch the messiness of those around us with love and humility.

All without complaining or tossing out loud sighs of fatigue and annoyance.

Jesus, after all, did this for us.  He chose sacrifice for us, without complaint, without sighs of frustration and without dramatizing the heavy load of the burden.

The night Jesus was betrayed, He “crossed the Kidron valley” along the way to the garden where He loved to pray (John 18:1).

Beth Moore notes this valley was “a deep ravine which had been a large cemetery since before 1500 BC.  The Kidron Valley was infamous for being the center of death and the grave” (Moore, Living Beyond Yourself).

Oh how often he must have walked steadily through the graves, the literal valley of the shadow of death, in order to reach the familiar garden.

It wasn’t a one-time journey.  Judas the betrayer knew where to find Jesus that night because he “knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples” (John 18:2).

Christ chose to pray in the familiar place, knowing Judas, an insider, would find him easily.

Then the soldiers arrived along with “some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees.  They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons” (John 18:3).  Judas brought along a “detachment” of soldiers—a full 600 men—not just a few random Roman guards to protect him from the angry disciples.

 For a moment, it sounds like the sacrifice was forced.  Like Jesus’ death was imposed on him, the victory of Satan over a helpless man—of 600 soldiers over one unarmed Jewish leader.

And yet, Jesus, “knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, ‘Who is it you want?’  ‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied.  ‘I AM he,’ Jesus said . . . When Jesus said, ‘I AM he,’ they drew back and fell to the ground” (John 18:4-5).

Six-hundred armed soldiers fell to the ground simultaneously at the name of Jesus.
Beth Moore notes: “In the King James Version, the word he in verses 5 and 8 appears in italics, which means the word is not in the original text but is added for our understanding” (Living Beyond Yourself).

“Whom do you seek?”

“Jesus.”

“I AM.”

Jesus wasn’t carried off to trial, torture and crucifixion, helplessly caught up in the triumph of Satan and death and the grave.

He chose to go with 600 soldiers who couldn’t even stand on their feet at the sound of HIS HOLY NAME.

Paul tells us that Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:14 NIV).

He says it again: Jesus “gave himself for our sins” (Galatians 1:4) and then later exhorted the church to “walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2 NIV).

Jesus gave himself up for us.  He chose sacrifice for us.

And Paul asks us to “walk in the way of love,” this very same sacrificial, non-complaining, freely given love, without sighs, but with joy in the worship of service.

Who has Christ asked you to serve today?

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