Seeing faith in action when you look in the kitchen

Funerals for dear friends who succumbed to cancer and funerals for young grandsons and sons , funerals after long-and-exhausting illnesses, funerals for unexpected death, and shocking funerals that remind a whole community of evil in the world– it feels like our church has had its share of sadness and hard losses in the last few years.

While we’re upstairs in the sanctuary, remembering loved ones, telling stories, singing hymns, and being reminded of eternal life in Jesus Christ, there’s this other truly beautiful thing happening downstairs.

The kitchen is abuzz.

Tables are set out and a team of people flit in and out of that kitchen carrying bowls and choosing the right serving spoons.  They cut up fruit and place sandwiches on trays.  They fill pitchers of water and tea and boil large pots of soup.

They are so faithful.  Funeral after funeral, they quietly set out the food and clean up the dishes. They work before most of us arrive and stay after most of us have left.

They do that kind of ministry that matters so much, that has so much impact, the kind that shows people God’s great love by meeting the most practical needs at the time they need it the most.  It’s not flashy or showy.  It’s “just” setting up tables.  It’s “just” setting out food.

But it’s also “just” loving others with self-sacrificing compassion.  These are humble acts, solely motivated by a desire to give.  No one is handing out trophies in the kitchen.

So, I marvel at these faithful few and I learn from them about what it means to live out my faith with obedience to Jesus.

Loving God well does not require degrees or ministry platforms.  It doesn’t require arenas or microphones.  It doesn’t even require being seen by most others around us.

When Jesus finished  rubbing off the grime on the disciples’ feet at their Passover  meal, He said:

If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet (John 13:14 NASB).

We Christians are supposed to be feet-washers.

Paul emphasized Christ’s example in this also:

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servantand being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.(Philippians 2:5-8 NASB). 

It doesn’t mean, of course, that we all have to crowd into a kitchen and serve up meals to  mourners at funerals.  We couldn’t possibly.  I, for one, would probably make a terrible mess of it.

But I can serve.

My faith in Christ is best expressed in service, in kindness, in gentleness, in giving, in  humility, in compassion, in rolling up my sleeves and getting dirty.

In Acts 28, Paul lands on the isle of Malta.  He’d been a prisoner on a ship bound for Rome on treacherous seas.  The sailors fought the storms for more than two weeks, throwing their provisions overboard, leaving them hungry, exhausted, wet, and terrified.

But Paul assured them that God would keep them safe, and that’s exactly what God did.  He washed them up on the shore of this island, where the natives showed them “extraordinary kindness.”

Then, Scripture tells us:

But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened itself on his hand (Acts 28:3 NASB).

In his book The Practice of Godliness, Jerry Bridges says this:

 Under the adverse circumstances of shipwreck, why would Paul have gone about gathering fuel for a fire built and tended by someone else?  Why didn’t he just stand by the fire and warm himself?  He didn’t because it was his character to serve (see Acts 20:33-35; 1 Thessalonians 2:7-9).

Paul was like everyone else: Lost and then saved, probably sopping wet, weary, and hungry.  Paul had every reason to  collapse near the fire and let others tend to his needs.

But instead, he gathered sticks and laid them on the fire.  He did the work.  He served.

Jerry Bridges suggests that “it was his character to serve.”

Paul’s spiritual gifts were probably evangelism and preaching/teaching, not so much compassion, giving, and service.  Yet, here Paul is tending a fire because we are all called to serve like Jesus, to be humble like Jesus, to love others like Jesus.  This is the way we live out radical faith in Him.

May these words be said of me and may they be said of any of us who want so much to be like Jesus: “It’s our character to serve. “

What’s the next right thing today? #AnywhereFaith

This week, we celebrated my son’s birthday and he loved every minute of it.   The next morning, he told me, “It’s  still my birthday” and asked for a cupcake.

There’s nothing like a good celebration!

And,  here’s another reason to celebrate—it’s the one-year anniversary of the release of my book,  Anywhere Faith.

Thanks so much to you for buying the book, reading it, sharing it with others, studying it with small groups, and sharing about it on social media.  You blessed me and encouraged me, and I’m grateful.  Here’s a little encouragement for you today:


As a teen, I attended some huge youth conferences with my church and they tended to have something in common:

There was always a tremendously dynamic speaker who had a jaw-dropping testimony of God’s grace: He did drugs.  He was in a gang.  His girlfriend got pregnant and he made her have an abortion.  He was an alcoholic, who was addicted to pornography, and homeless.

Then He met Jesus.

By the time the testimony was over, the altars were flooded with teens crying and praying for God to save them and use them.

But my story didn’t seem to fit in.  They’d ask if anyone felt “called to ministry” and I’d raise my hand and pray that God use me “anywhere” and send me “anywhere.”

Only, how could He use a girl like me?  I’m relatively boring and surely the world truly needed displays of God’s grace and mercy on a grand scale.

I prayed and searched for God’s will for my life, but I didn’t end up in foreign missions or traditional full-time ministry.  So, does that mean God didn’t call me after all?

Now, that’s my story.  How I struggled to truly let grace seep deep in my soul.

How I searched so hard for one “big calling,” that I overlooked the impact of daily obedience and the calling to follow Him right here, right now, serving Christ by serving others in small ways every single day.

Your story might be like mine.  Maybe you desperately want to follow Jesus “anywhere,” but you can’t see where He wants you to go.

Or perhaps your story is entirely different.  Maybe you have that testimony of radical transformation, but you feel like an unworthy vessel, unfit for His use.

“Calling” is a tricky subject for Christians.  It sometimes trips us up into a mess of confusion.

We talk about God “calling” me to do this or “calling” me to do that, but we don’t always know what that looks like day in and day out.

And sometimes we miss it entirely.

When I wrote in my book, Anywhere Faith, about following God anywhere He calls us to go, I shared some truths about “calling” because God wants all of us to follow Him, whether that’s around the world, across the street, or in our own homes.

GOD CALLS ALL OF US

Your past, your present and your future don’t have to look like anyone else’s in order for God to use you.  anywhere-faith

Maybe He called you to foreign missions or full-time ministry.  Maybe He called you to pray for the teachers at your kids’ school or to help young moms who need encouragement.

If we obsess over what someone else’s calling looks like, we can sometimes miss what He has planned for us.

God uses the ordinary. He uses the everyday and the mundane. He uses the untrained. He uses the sinner who repents and the prodigal who returns. He uses us despite our past and even sometimes because of it (Anywhere Faith).

CALLINGS DON’T HAVE TO BE (AND OFTEN AREN’T) GLAMOROUS OR GRAND.

I’m not a speaker at conferences talking about deliverance from addiction.  Today, I have played Play Doh with my son, scheduled doctor’s appointments for my kids, prayed for my family, written to you, washed dishes and laundry, and performed a million small and seemingly insignificant tasks that are actually ministry.

Sure, the disciples traveled with Jesus, witnessed miracles, and even healed and performed miracles themselves in Christ’s name.

But the calling wasn’t all glitz and glamor.  They packed light and traveled far. They left families and jobs behind to pursue Jesus.

Jesus told them to bend low, to do the dirty jobs, to wash feet, to love outcasts, to touch lepers.

He asks us to humbly serve others every day, too.

Your calling might not be to a stage or arena; it may be to faithfulness at work, witness in your community, and ministry to your family.  Every “calling’ is significant to Him.

GOD CAN USE YOU RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE

We can get so caught up looking for big visions for our future that we miss the ways He asks us to serve today.  I’ve done it myself, praying desperately for God to show me “His will for my life” instead of His will for this moment.

Let’s ask God to show us the next right step and walk that way.  We can trust Him with our future.

 WHEN WE TALK ABOUT CALLING, LET’S REMEMBER THIS:

God isn’t looking for the flashiest vessels; He’s looking for yielded vessels…
He uses the humble, the willing and the obedient (Anywhere Faith).

May we be yielded today, humble today, and obedient today as we follow Him “Anywhere.”

15 Bible Verses on Serving Others

versesserving

  • Proverbs 11:25 ESV
    Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
        and one who waters will himself be watered.
  • Matthew 20:28 NIV
     just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
  • Matthew 23:11 NLT
     The greatest among you must be a servant.
  • Matthew 25:35-40 ESV
    For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
  • Mark 9:35 NIV
    Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.
  • Mark 10:44-45 ESV
    and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
  • Luke 6:38 NIV
    Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
  • John 13:12-14 NIV
    When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.
  • Acts 20:35 ESV
     In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
  • Galatians 5:13-14 ESV
    For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
  • Ephesians 6:7 NIV
    Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people,
  • Philippians 2:3 ESV
    Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
  • Hebrews 13:16 NLT
    And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.
  • 1 Peter 4:10
    Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
  • 1 John 3:18 NASB
    Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

proverbs11

Accepting this Gift

“Is there anything I can do for you?”

That’s what I ask, but there isn’t anything right now….and that’s hard.

It’s hard to be one so used to serving, doing, and giving now mostly watching as another serves me.9550030_s

This, after all, is a love note I write to my family: one husband, three daughters, now one tiny son.  In lunches packed, laundry washed, games played, songs sung, books read, homework helped, appointments made, chauffeuring done, I say, “I love you.”

But this is his message now to me in these first two weeks of life with a newborn, and it’s beautiful and yet all so overwhelming because part of me rebels and revolts, thinking, “I should be doing this.”

Yet, it’s my husband clearing up the dinner table, washing each dish, and there he is driving three far-too-busy daughters to dance classes three times a week and shuttling children back and forth to school and then from school day after day.

He pushes the cart in the grocery store and carries the baby carrier into the church.  He serves the cereal in the morning and then bounces a restless newborn while I fix ponytails and bows into long blonde hair.

He forgoes sleep so I can sleep.

He’s been serving me all along, all these years of working hard and caring for me in many ways.  But now it’s all-the-time service; it’s middle-of-the-night and throughout the day every day and it’s taking over my jobs and chores in addition to his own normal tasks.

I find it so hard to rest and accept the gift of love…to allow someone else the chance to say:

“I love you” as I wash this dish.

“I love you” as I care for these children.

“I love you” as I sacrifice and as I serve.

It still feels like it should be me giving, not receiving…doing, not resting….loving, not being loved.

Yet, I sit for so much of every day and every night now, cradling a newborn, feeding him, changing him, cooing over him, praying for him, running my hands over his soft skin and kissing his totally kissable cheeks.

And I think….

What if this helpless babe refused my help?

What if, in his need, he declined my acts of love?

He’d be utterly desperate, hungry, filthy.  He’d be completely incapable of thriving.  He could try as he might to function with determined independence, but he’d fail and he’d suffer.

He needs me to love him.

And I need to let others and let Christ love me with this unmerited, unselfish, undemanding grace, as well.

Paul wrote:

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I do not nullify the grace of God” Galatians 2:20-21.

Nullifying grace. How could we do this?

How could we take the amazing grace of God as it pours down all over us and soaks us right through and reject it, make it thoroughly null and void and ineffective in our lives?

Surely it’s by trampling all over this sacrificial gift of God of blessing and forgiveness, salvation and daily mercy, with declarations of our own independence.

It’s refusing the gift and trying instead to earn it.  It’s refusing to receive and demanding instead to be the one doing, serving and giving always.

It’s shaming myself for imperfections and living trapped in self-condemnation instead of accepting the freedom Christ offers.

And really, deep down is the ugly truth, it’s making faith all about me and my performance, and not at all about Him and His sacrifice.

Like Peter, I’m tempted at times to refuse the humility of Christ as He bends low to wash my feet.  How shocking to see the Messiah on His knees.

Foolish Peter—he didn’t know how much He needed a Savior who served, so he told Jesus at the Last Supper, “No…you shall never wash my feet” (John 13:8 NIV).  Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

Foolish me, how I forget that I need:

Grace

Mercy

Sacrifice

Service

Forgiveness

Without them, I have no part in Christ.

Peter submitted.  He stopped protesting and willingly accepted the gift:  “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” (John 13:9).

This is what I need to learn…the submitting.

Sometimes, I need to let others give to me when I am needy and when I am weak.

And grace from Christ….that’s not something I need “sometimes.”  It’s grace I need moment by moment, day by day, new every morning.

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

That’s What I Want

I’m a tiny bit of a Wal-Mart celebrity.

It’s eight years of working with our small-town church’s Vacation Bible School …plus eight-and-a-half years of being mom to young kids who have too many friends to fit the playdates into the schedule…plus years of singing songs with kids in our church’s Children’s Church…plus some children’s community theater work …and Voila: Wal-Mart Celebrity Status.

Pushing my cart around the store, totally focused on comparing coupons with the 50+ options on the shelves, trying to keep up with the shopping list and the meal plan, I’ll still know it’s happening.

A child recognizes me.

Sometimes it’s a whisper, “Mom, I know her!  She’s from ____!”

Maybe it involves finger pointing or bashful waving.

Occasionally, I’ll be just about tackled down in a football hug.

My favorite is when they recognize me but they can’t remember why, so they are simultaneously trying to get my attention while looking a tiny bit confused, a lot shy, and maybe even socially panicked if I actually wave back.

Oh, fame.

But this isn’t really fame, of course, not in the worldly sense of paparazzi, limos, mansions, TV commercials, bestsellers and autograph lines.

This is just kids excited that you made a difference in their lives in the way only a rural, small-town church girl and momma can.

Maybe it’s pride, the world, Satan, or just ugly sin, but something drives us so often to push and shove our way to the front row of this crowded planet.  To be recognized.  To be the best.  To gain followers and have that spotlight track us around a stage.

But the world is a crowded and noisy place with so many people clamoring and shouting in order to be heard over all the ruckus.

Mostly our motives aren’t deep down evil.  What we want, really and truly, is to make a difference for God.  We want to be part of His ministry, be His hands, His feet, His voice.

We want to do something “Great” for God, believing that God has called us to “Great” things and is going to give us a “Great” ministry.

Yet, “Great” to God so often requires humble invisibility and sometimes painful but unrecognized giving.

Jesus said:

whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:43-45 NIV).

“Great” means service, even slavery.  It means self-sacrifice so extreme it’s life-demanding.

What if “Great” means bringing up Godly children who serve the Lord into adulthood?

Or building into a strong marriage that lasts and models Christ’s covenant love and faithful commitments to a world bruised and beaten by the lies of selfish passion and cheap vows?

Or sticking with that tiny Sunday School class or small group year after faithful year?

Or being content with Wal-Mart Celebrity Status or even less recognition than that?

My husband says it:

Desire Impact, Not Fame.gideon

Impact.  Aretha Franklin belted out a plea for R-E-S-P-E-C-T, but Impact is what I want.

Not glory for me; just glory for Him.  Not attention for me; just praise and honor for Him.

And impact doesn’t start by reaching out to crowds and arenas and the world en masse.

Impact begins with obedience right in our homes, churches and communities.

If God takes us on beyond that, Amen.  So be it.  God’s will be done.

If He doesn’t, still it is yes and Amen.

In her study, Gideon, Priscilla Shirer notes that Gideon’s first assignment as God’s Mighty Warrior was to:

Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah polebeside it (Judges 6:25 NIV)

His work began in his own home, not leading the Israelite army into battle against the Midianites.

And Abraham’s calling didn’t begin as founder of a nation.  Instead, God said:

For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just (Genesis 18:19).

For Gideon, for Abraham…for us, that means focusing on the everyday, the invisible, the humbling, the self-sacrificing, the mundane, and the small and always, in all things, giving glory to Him.

As Priscilla Shirer writes:

What lies ahead in your journey is not nearly as critical as where you are right now…your greatest impact will be done here—in the ordinary rhythms of your daily living (Gideon, p. 63).

That is where impact begins.

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

My Favorite Teacher Gifts and Why This Matters…

For ten years, it sat on my desk.

And I’m not a “stuff” person really.  I have kids.  Things break.  It’s a reality, not a nightmare.

Yet, this I mourned a little, when I sat down at my desk and saw what a child-who-shall-remain-nameless broke this week.

Ten years ago, in my pre-Mom days when I was still teaching in the classroom, parents and students gave this simple picture frame to me.  Each teacher in the school received one with a card inside displaying their name along with the fruit of the spirit or character trait the students said that teacher most represented.

Sometimes you need an outsider’s perspective.  Sometimes you think you know who you are, but it takes someone else to say, “I see this in you…” and you haven’t ever seen that before so you know exactly what that means.

It’s proof that God’s been working in you.  He’s been transforming you and changing  you all up from the inside.  Maybe you’ve missed the yellow “Caution: God At Work” sign and maybe you didn’t even see the grand unveiling of the new and Holy Spirit-improved you.

But someone else saw.  They noticed.  And they took time to say….Jesus is glorified in you.

So, I opened up that teacher’s gift ten years ago and just marveled at God because what the kids saw in me was “Joy.”

I never would have guessed that.  Didn’t see it.  Didn’t know it.  Can’t even tell you now how exactly the Holy Spirit chiseled, scraped, sanded, and carved that out of a misshapen rock like me.

But I knew one thing for sure.  That was God’s hand, His glory, an artistic endeavor that only a Master Creator would undertake and accomplish.042

That little picture frame gift never was just about remembering students or recalling the old days when I commuted and dressed like a professional instead of donning jeans, a t-shirt and canvas sneakers to head out for a full day of Mom-life.

No, it was about so much grace.

And more.

This world condones, encourages, evokes, and just pulls right out the selfishness in us.  It tells us: Focus within.  Look out for #1.  Fight to get ahead.  Don’t let anyone stand in your way.  Help yourself.  Take what’s yours.

God, though, didn’t just tell us to stoop down low, to reach out, to humby pull out the cloth and the basin and wash another’s feet.

He did it Himself.

And then He asked us to do it for others.

Hebrews 10:24 says:

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works” (NLT).

One little teacher gift for me was Hebrews 10:24 wrapped up with tissue paper and handed out during teacher appreciation week in 2003.

Now, I’m the mom with the young kids and they have the incredible teachers.  This, again, is grace.  The way God blesses us and pours into us.  Then He asks us to pour ourselves right on out for others so they can be blessed and filled to overflowing.

And so it goes, a perpetual fountain of grace-giving that only stops when we break the chain and stagnate the flow until we’re all swamp-stinky and covered in a grime of selfishness.001

Maybe your days of classroom teachers are long over.  But we all have those special ones who give so much and if we’ll just take one moment to look at them instead of at ourselves, we’ll marvel at the creativity, the thoughtfulness, the gentleness, the devotion, the commitment, the faithfulness, the care and the compassion.

And we’ll want to say, “Thanks.”  We’ll want to tell them—“I see this beauty in you.”

For those looking for ways to bless a teacher or other special servant, here are some ideas as we end this school year or even thoughts to give you a head-start for the fall.  We’ve collected these ideas from Pinterest, the Internet, and from other moms.  I’m hardly creative enough to come up with these on my own!

To see my whole Pinterest board of Cute Gift Ideas, click here!

Of course, gift cards are great, too.

Most importantly, though, is a genuine, heartfelt note of appreciation and encouragement.  That’s something we can all give to another this week.

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

After the Parade Passes By

Yesterday, they formed a parade in my honor.

I heard the commotion outside the bathroom door as I finished brushing my teeth on the morning of Mother’s Day.

At the sound of the whispering and shuffling, I opened the door to find three daughters and one husband singing, “Happy Mother’s Day to you…” their own take on the familiar birthday tune.

My youngest waved two hand-made flags, my oldest led the singing with her present in hand, my middle girl smiled in her Groucho Marx funny glasses.  They had as021signed my husband a triangle and given him handwritten sheet music so he knew when to play his notes.

Happy Mother’s Day to you. (tap, tap)

Happy Mother’s Day to you. (tap, tap)

Happy Mother’s Day, dear Mommy. (tap, tap)

Happy Mother’s Day to you. (tap, tap, tap)

They labored with love and presented handmade gifts, so thoughtful and sweet, and they were so proud of their offerings.  More than just handwritten notes, they had created dot-to-dot puzzles and coloring sheets for me with hidden messages.

All day my daughters fussed at me for pouring the cereal, clearing the table, or buckling my youngest girl’s seatbelt.

You shouldn’t have to do anything today, Mom.  That’s what my middle girl assured me.

Mother’s Day, all that recognition and thanks, all those assurances that the daily grind that has ground you right down is noticed and worth it and they appreciate it after all and maybe all those times you felt invisible someone actually saw you, that’s such a beautiful gift to a woman.  It fills her soul right up so that she’s able to pour out more.

Parades, though, all have endings.  A final float, the Santa sleigh or the police escort brings up the rear and everyone packs up their lawn chairs and bags of candy and treks back to their cars.

And we wake up the day after Mother’s Day and love without the flags and songs.

The phone is ringing, the laundry spinning, the dishwasher humming, and I’m running through the to-do list today.

But it’s when I scrub the toilet, of all things, that I remember as I grumble a little with that silent whine that no one else knows about except God.

How it must sadden Him so, how disappointed He must be by my heart’s ugly attitude as I serve, as I wash feet without joy and give without cheerfulness of heart.

There I scrub, bleach poured out and I’m working fast just to get it all done, when I remember—yesterday, they made a parade for me.

These gifts of God, my family so precious, those I watched last night after they were in deep sleep, breathing slow, hair tangled all over pillows, fleece blankets wrapped tight like cocoons around them.  I remember that I had prayed such deep thanks for these blessings.

And I felt so overwhelmed by that grace we can’t ever understand, how God trusted me with these daughters and the love of this husband.  This is the great privilege and highest honor.

Serving with joy, that’s my heart bent deep in gratitude to God.

It all feels easier for a while because I remember.  The laundry and the toilets and scrubbing the toothpaste off that sink: this isn’t mundane and annoying.  It’s the blessing and the gift.

But the challenge is here: How to remember the parade a week from now, a month, this time next year?  It’s always in those moments after the high of a mountaintop that we can crash right down the hardest because we have the farthest to fall.

Like Elijah, sitting on that mountain all alone after defeating 450 prophets of Baal in a spiritual showdown with supernatural fire.  It was after the victory that he ran away in fear.  After all that boldness, there was terror and loneliness and suicidal despair.

How could he forget, I wonder?

Maybe he hadn’t learned to live without the parade.

Sometimes God speaks in the whirlwind, the earthquake and the fire.  Sometimes it’s grand and showy.

But not always.

Oh no, sometimes it’s that “still small voice” and this we forget in the days long after the Mother’s Day parade when we’ve started to feel a little overlooked and invisible again.  We forget how to see God in the quiet and the everyday.

Zechariah 4:10 asks: “Who dares despise the day of small things?”

The small things, the quiet ways, the stillness, the everyday, the service without parades, the scrubbing down bathrooms without whining….that’s where we can find beauty, where we hear God, where our worship brings Him joy.

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

One Week Without a Voice: Lesson Two

Eight days after I woke up squeaking and sputtering air instead of greeting the start of a new day with my normal cheerful voice . . . (okay, maybe I don’t wake up like Cinderella, singing to birds with a smile ever morning) . . . but still, eight days after I woke up and couldn’t talk, I still sound like an alien in my own body.

My voice scratches a bit and I’ve taken a step down from a normal alto range into a definitive tenor.

Still, it’s an improvement.  I can sit and hold a conversation with friends.  I read about ten books to my toddler this morning while she sat on the potty.  I can call out to my older girls reminders to “Be nice.  Don’t be unkind.  Stop being nasty to each other.  If you can’t get along, I’m going to pack up your game so you can’t play.”

These are important and necessary skills for me, a busy wife and mom and friend.  Today, I’m thankful for the voice I have, scratchy and low as it is, because the essential truth is I’m no longer voice-less.

And there are others who never feel that freedom.  Some people never seem to gain a voice, not after years of anguished pleas.  Not after infant’s tears in a forlorn and overlooked makeshift bed, crying out to an unresponsive mama or parents that simply aren’t there.

Living one week without a voice reminded me that there are some people who are perpetually voiceless.  No amount of cough drops, hot tea with lemon and honey, or throat spray is going to tune the world into the sound of their need.

Our God, though, is a hearer of silenced cries.  When Bartimaeus, a blind beggar sitting hopeless by a roadside, yelled out to Jesus as he passed by, the crowd tried to hush him up.    “They rebuked him, telling him to be silent” (Mark 10:47).

What could Jesus care for a blind beggar?  Why stop and heal someone so clearly overlooked by every . . . other . . . person.

Refusing to be silenced, though, Bartimaeus screamed louder and Jesus stopped the mob of fawning followers so he could listen to a man in need.

“What do you want me to do for you?”   That’s all Jesus asked.  That’s all he needed to ask in order to assure a blind beggar that finally someone had heard his cry for help.  Bartimaeus, voiceless no longer, presented his clear and simple request: “Rabbi, let me recover my sight” (Mark 10:51)

More than just a miracle of sight for a blind man occurred there that day.  It was the miracle of God hearing the pleas of a voiceless one amidst a noisy crowd.

In the same way, when a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years ducked her head in shameful desperation and slipped into the crowd surrounding Jesus, she was a voiceless one.  Her society and culture, the laws of her faith, declared her unclean.  Unfit for human contact.  Unable to live among her people.  Cut off from public worship.

In faith, she ran her hand along the hem of Jesus’ robe, trusting that the tiniest touch could heal her.

Jesus could have let her slip away from the crowd unnoticed.  No need for her to risk discovery in a mob who thought her very presence would taint them and stain their purity.

But he didn’t.  Jesus gave voice to the voiceless.  He asked, “Who touched me” and waited for her to speak up, to declare her presence and give testimony.  It was as if he was telling her, “You haven’t just received physical healing.  You are welcome in this place.  These people need to hear what you have to say.  No more sneaking into a crowd and then slipping out the back.”

Even she recognized the impact of Jesus’ question, realizing “that she was not hidden” (Luke 8:47).  No, not hidden anymore.  Instead, “trembling, and falling down before him (she) declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him”

It was likely her first act of public worship and her first unashamed speech in 12 years.

Don’t you love this about our Lord?  That He hears when no one else will hear?  That His passion and heart are for the neediest and weakest among us?  That He’s given us a voice and He listens when we call for Him?

This is His character.
More than that, this is supposed to be the character of his people.

In the book of Nehemiah, this cup-bearer to a foreign King, a man with responsibility and high position, asked his brother for reports about his homeland and the people who had returned to Jerusalem.

Kelly Minter in Nehemiah: A Heart That Can Break notes this about Nehemiah’s character:  “He wanted to know.  Sometimes I shield myself from finding out what’s really going on with people for fear I’ll be held responsible.  Because with information often comes responsibility; if we know, we might be required to do something”(p. 13).

We may want to remain blind and deaf to need, but Nehemiah wanted to know.  And when he heard about the state of his people, he responded with prayer and action.

All because he served a God who hears and cares about those with no voice.  We serve that same God—do we hear and care?

You can read more devotionals on this topic here:

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: 05/12/2012—Mother’s Day and a Trophy

Hiding the Word:

In preparation for Mother’s Day, my daughters have been sneaking home crafts and cards for a little over a week.  Immediately after our welcome home hug, I hear, “Don’t look in my backpack, Mom,” or “There’s a big white paper in there that you can’t look at, Mom!”

It’s not difficult to figure out which papers are the surprises.  My oldest prints across the back in all caps: DO NOT OPEN UNTIL SUNDAY.

In honor of such a special day when we recognize and honor moms and all of the grace, love, and selfless service they give, I thought it’d be a perfect week to reflect on Paul’s definition of Love.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres
(1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

I love this passage in The Message for the way it describes what love actually looks like; it’s a test, in a way, a checklist I can use to determine whether I’m living out Christ’s love to others.  Let’s meditate this week on God’s love for us, the way others have shown us His love, and how we can share this love, as well.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 MSG).

Weekend Rerun:

Do I Get A Trophy?
Originally published 07/13/2012

The kids piled onto the stage for the practice before the big program.  At first, I arranged them like carefully planned chess pieces—tallest in the back, little ones up front.  Brothers not next to other brothers for fear of poking and other tomfoolery.  Eventually, though, the kids just kept coming and shifting around and they ended up in no particular order.

However it happened, in the very middle of the stage in the very front row was the most precious little boy you could imagine.  He sang.  With all his might, he sang.  You could hear his voice in any place in the sanctuary and those passing by the closed doors could hear him singing down the hall.  His sister poked him during each song and whispered to him, “Don’t be so loud!” Those watching us practice from the pews couldn’t help but smile as he made a “joyful noise.”

Then, the practice done, each child climbed down the steps of the stage and filed into the back room to wait for the actual program.  Except for this one singing boy.

He took hold of my hands and asked, “Ms. Heather, did I do a good job?”
“Oh, you did a great job. I love how you sang with all your heart.”
“So, do I get a trophy?”
“Well, I don’t have trophies, but I have candy!”

He seemed happy with the alternative and ran off with the other kids.

We Don’t Serve To Earn a Trophy

For most of the truly important things in life, we don’t get trophies.  Coaches hand them out for playing on a soccer team, but no woman polishes the brass trophy on her shelf for enduring labor and having a baby.  There’s no “stayed up all night with vomiting children” trophy.  No trophy for “visiting the nursing home without anyone else knowing you did it.”  No plaque for “spent hours on knees praying for wayward child.”

We don’t serve for awards that will hang on our wall or adorn our bookshelves.  Other than an occasional mug from our kids saying, “World’s best mom,” we go through our everyday acts of ministry without recognition.

Sometimes our motives twist and need readjusting.  Deep in our heart, we occasionally slip into acting out of a desire to be seen, noticed and praised.  Or we take on a task because it feels good to be needed and asked.  We fear that no one else could possibly do it, so we sign on the dotted line.

When others are looking, we sometimes put on the voice and physical appearance of “Super Christian,” and then snap at our family, grumble and complain, and gossip about others as we sink into the seats of our cars and drive from church to home.

Then there are those moments when we shove the dishes into the dishwasher and slam the pot down on the counter wishing that someone would recognize what we do.  It may not be Nobel prize worthy, but this is our life’s service we’re talking about!  This is self-sacrificing.  This is humbling.  This is always putting others first!

It’s not always articulated in our heart and mind that way. It’s not something we always admit or even recognize.  But our motives are distorted and we’ve begun to serve for trophies–polished brass rewards of attention, praise, personal pride and recognition from others.

Jesus warned: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:1).

We shouldn’t serve in any capacity to get a trophy.  If we do, we’re forfeiting heavenly reward, trading eternal glory for a temporary self-esteem boost.

But We Serve As If God Was Handing Out Trophies

Here’s the challenge, though.  With pure motives and sometimes hidden service, without seeking praise and recognition, we can still serve with all our heart as if we would get a trophy.

We don’t seek the prize, but we strive with all our might to be worthy of it.  Because even when we are invisible to everyone else, God sees us.

He sees you.  All of your effort, your service, your laying down of self, your sacrificial giving, your stepping out in faith, your steady faithfulness, your lack of sleep, your soul emptied out.

Just like my singing friend.  Fully knowing that he wouldn’t get a trophy, he still sang loudly and enthusiastically during the program.  He gave his best effort anyway and I’m positive that God was beaming at every word he sang.  God didn’t miss a single second of his heartfelt praise.

In the same way, we worship wholeheartedly, we serve menially, we act selflessly not for our own glory, but for the glory of God.

We pick up toys for the “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”  We work at our jobs not so we receive promotions, but so that our “light (will) shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).  We walk away from gossip.  We take a meal to the family who needs it.  We write the note of encouragement.  We pray for our friend.  We teach the Sunday School class year after year after year.  We rock the baby.

Because God sees and cares.

We sing with all our hearts not because some human being is going to hand us a physical trophy, but we’re singing for God, so that He will be pleased.  This is our worship, the offering we place before Him.  When we grow weary or frustrated, feeling annoyed or walked all over, pouring out our very soul for the sake of others, we do not give up and go through halfhearted motions of service.  Our motivation remains the same, to serve God, to bring Him glory, to give Him praise.

Because even when no one else notices, we know that God sees.

We remember what Paul wrote:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

and

So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith (Galatians 6:9-10 MSG).

For those who feel invisible at times, here’s a video from Nicole Johnson on The Invisible Woman.  I hope you are blessed by it as much as I was:

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