Bringing Back Shoulder Pads

Originally posted on 1/13/2012 as Why I Need Shoulder Pads

I’m thinking about bringing back shoulder pads.

That’s right, a return to a true 80’s style, massive well-defineshoulderpadsd shoulder pads to broaden even the leanest frame into a walking house.

This may help me, you see, because I’m discovering that my shoulders just aren’t big enough to carry it all.

During the Christmas break with my daughters, we played games, made cookies, went on trips and visited friends.  We relaxed.  We read.  We created art projects.

We also worked on character.

That wasn’t intentional, surely, and yet somehow when several of you are sick and you’re spending a quiet day at home, all day, all together in the same little space, some of the weaknesses in your soul start sticking out all over the place.

Someone was liable to be hurt.

So, we worked on some things.  How to show kindness to one another.  What the Golden Rule really means.  How people don’t always do what you want them to do and manipulation and threats aren’t really the answer.

Then we started back to school and suddenly we were cramming in homework, devotions, after-school activities and church programs back into the schedule.  We went a whole week with only one daughter practicing the piano one time and the math flash cards collected dust on the shelf.

My shoulders were bearing the heavy burden of caring for these girls and “training them up in the way they should go” and knowing that I was too weak for the job.

I had to be the perfect mom for them.  I had to catch every character weakness and fix it.  I had to identify every gift and develop it.  I had to promote every spiritual discipline and keep up with every concern of their heart.

And if I got it wrong or if I fell short, they wouldn’t be Christian enough, wouldn’t be equipped for life, wouldn’t be successful, wouldn’t serve the Lord with their gifts, wouldn’t have strong marriages . .

Suddenly, my shoulders were feeling pretty wimpy.

This isn’t just about moms and the responsibility we bear when God gives us these children.

It’s about feeling like your marriage depends entirely on you saying the right words and showing the right kindness, but if you mess up, adultery is inevitable and divorce a sure thing.

It’s feeling that the ministry can only work if you’re smart enough, creative enough, work hard enough and somehow have a super-connection with God that grants you favor, but if you fall short then no one will come or be blessed.

It’s thinking that if you just say the right magic combo of words, your friend will accept Christ, but if you forget a verse or stutter, they’re doomed for eternity.

We begin to feel like everything depends on us.

It doesn’t.  Praise God!

This doesn’t mean I go on a Mom Strike and cease all cleaning, homework-helping, and dinner-cooking.  As Oswald Chambers frequently wrote, we always give God “My Utmost for His Highest—my best for His glory.”

That’s our job, really, to offer our best sacrifice of service to God in every arena of our lives. We faithfully serve Him in all that we do.

But we leave the results up to Him.  That’s His job.

Moses did his part well.  We are told that he “was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action” (Acts 7:22). Still Pharaoh hardened his heart and refused to allow the Israelites to leave Egypt.

It was the same for Stephen, the first martyr of the church. As the enemies of the early church prepared to stone him, Stephen delivered a brilliant and articulate sermon, filled with knowledge and insight that was directed by the Holy Spirit.

Still, the members of the Sanhedrin “covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him (Acts 7:57-58).

Had his speech fallen short?  Did he need a few more semesters of Public Speaking at the local community college before trying another sermon?

Of course not.  He gave his best.  He did all that God asked of him.  The note in my Bible says: “He had the gifts, the boldness, and the brilliance to be a powerful witness; yet even His witness would be rejected by the religious leaders.  Hearts are opened only by God, not by our gifts, boldness, or brilliance.”

This means that our best efforts are enough and that the offerings of obedience we bring to God are acceptable to Him.

We heed Paul’s encouragement that “whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men (Colossians 3:23).  Then we leave the rest up to God.

We stop trying to carry burdens of responsibility and guilt on our own shoulders.  We trust God to use us according to His plan, to help us in in our weaknesses, to strengthen us for each new day and to shower us with grace when we need it.  After all, this never depends completely on us or rests fully on our shoulders; it’s always about Him.

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

How is a Christian like an Oompa Loompa?

The curtain rose and fell for the last time.  The makeup went on and the makeup came off (mostly–there are still streaks of orange along my daughter’s hairline).  Costumes were handed in and tucked away for future shows. A crew of folks broke down the set and put the pieces into storage.

My kids finished their summer-long project yesterday, an all-youth production of Willy Wonka Jr. sponsored by our local community theater group.  They auditioned the Sunday after school ended, rehearsed every week, and performed this weekend.

Now it’s time to kick back and enjoy a few weeks of rehearsal-free summer before school starts again.

Each night before the show, we arrived two hours early so the kids could climb into costumes and sit still for makeup.  This was a particularly involved process because my middle girl was an Oompa Loompa.

The Oompa Loompas are Willy Wonka’s devoted candy factory workers.  Refugees from a horrible land, they’ve come to live and work in his factory as loyal servants of their eccentric chocolate-making master.

Transforming into an Oompa Loompa is quite a task.  It’s more than just colorful shirts, socks and some overalls with curiously expansive hips.

There’s also a bright green wig covered in curls.

And there’s orange makeup–bright orange.

For these six through nine-year-olds, this was a matter of acting, putting on the outward appearance of another.

In the tradition of Lewis Carroll-like riddles, though, I’ve been wondering: How is a Christian like an Oompa Loompa? (Yes, I know Lewis Carroll wrote Alice in Wonderland, not Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  What can I say?  I’ve got children’s fantasy on the brain . . . )

Peter wrote this description to the church:

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9 NLT).

The Oompa Loompas are peculiar.  They are “strange creatures,” unmistakably different from the kids and parents who visit Willy Wonka’s factory.

We also are supposed to be “not like that,” not like the world, not able to blend in with the crowd. God has changed us from the inside-out and people should notice the unique qualities of God’s love and righteousness about us.

I never once saw an Oompa Loompa hit the gym for an exercise routine targeted at reducing his hip-size.  They didn’t climb onto stilts to increase their height.  None of them hid in the bathroom for an hour to dye their hair and they didn’t even try to pass their orange skin off as suntan.

They were comfortable being weird.

Sometimes we’re not.  We’re too often trying to hide, transform, pretend, and deny the presence of Christ in us.

There’s freedom, though, in unashamedly being who God called us to be, in raising our hands in worship with abandon, in standing up for what is right with conviction, and not fearing the disapproving looks of those around us.

We’re supposed to be weird, too.

The Oompa Loompas were also refugees.  Willy Wonka had pulled them out of a land of fear and disaster and offered them a place of peace.

We’ve similarly been lifted up out of pits and carried to safety.  We are God’s “chosen people” and His “very own possession,” who no longer inhabit a hopeless world, facing inevitable death without the promise of a future.  He has “called us out of the darkness into his wonderful light.”

So, we respond as the Oompa Loompas did; we cheerfully and faithfully serve our Master.

He has saved us!  We are rescued and redeemed!

It’s a little thing, then, to show gratitude and loyalty and to obey Him in every little thing.  We work, we love, we give, we minister, we sacrifice, we share, we worship because we are refugees brought to safety by a Savior who loves us.

The Oompa Loompas are also message-bearers.  As each Golden Ticket winner inevitably fails, falling to the temptations of  immediate satisfaction, selfishness, and greed, the Oompa Loompas take the stage. They clean up the mess.  They solve the problem.

They sing their song.

We also “show others the goodness of God,” sometimes by fixing problems and tending to needs, silently ministering grace.

Sometimes we “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), reminding others that God has a plan, purpose, and design.  We speak truth and wisdom in a world that desperately needs both, but we do it with love, covered over with grace, never out of judgment or pompous self-righteousness.

The Christian life is a call to be different, to be saved, to be devoted, to be messengers of God’s goodness, all without having to wear a green wig or apply orange makeup.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for 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