Christmas Devotionals: I Lay Me Down

Grumpy.

That’s how I get sometimes.

Only that night, my daughter and I had sat down on the sofa with her Awana book between us, studying her lessons and verses for the week.  After learning all of Psalm 23, all 66 books of the Bible, and a run of other long and difficult verses, she nearly bounced off the couch when she saw the first verse on the page:

Do everything without complaining or arguing (Phil. 2:14).

“Wow, Mom, that’s sooooo easy,” she announced and then poured out the verse a few times just to show off her impressive memorization skills.

So easy, she thinks.  Oh, sometime it’s the shortest, simplest lessons that I’ll be learning over and over, repeatedly day by day, one relentless crawl up the mountain after another, until I collapse in worship at Jesus’ feet in heaven.

Do everything without complaining or arguing.

No grumbling in the kitchen when you’ve called your children to dinner five times and they can hear each other, hear the television, hear the phone ring, hear their game….but at momma’s voice they go conveniently deaf.

No whining about cleaning up the trail of trash or complaining about lunch packing or wailing “woe is me” because I’m tired and bone-aching weary, falling asleep on the couch as my daughters read the bedtime story to me.

No elaborate, shoulder-heaving, dramatic sighs over sock piles and shoes strewn here and there.

Our ministries in our homes, churches, communities, and jobs, sometimes they are joy and sometimes we lose focus and feel the burden.

We see bother and mess, not beauty and grace, precious gifts from God to us.  We forget to be thankful.

And we become grumbling complainers and then staunch defenders of our “rights” and the boundaries we feel will protect those “rights.”

I get the need for boundaries, really I do.  I understand that God’s people aren’t expected to just let others walk all over us. I see how that’s not healthy for us or for them.

And yet, sometimes I feel we set “boundaries” not to help others, but to protect ourselves from the slightest hint of inconvenience, the smallest encroachment on our time or budget or activity.

Sometimes boundaries are less about helping others be healthy and more about keeping ourselves comfy, uninvolved and apathetic to the people around us.

Not always, but sometimes.

How can we, nearing the Christmas season and singing and talking and preaching often about Jesus born in a manger, still stand in our kitchens and grumble about dinner and socks and lunches and mess?

After all, God of the Universe “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Phil. 2:7 NIV).

Christmas reminds us to be self-sacrificing, to be servants, to offer ourselves with joy.

Because that’s what our Savior did for love of us, setting aside His rights, privileges, and glory, and humbly, oh so humbly, living among us and our dirt, sin and ugly pride.  Being born and then dying for us, choosing the blood and choosing the pain.

Didn’t Mary also willingly endure shame, the possibility of abandonment by Joseph—and even worse, death by a mob—the loss of her reputation, the disappointment of her parents, the discomfort of pregnancy, the uncomfortable and bumpy trek to Bethlehem, the pain of childbirth, and more…..for God and for the people her Son would save?

And Joseph willingly chose to stand up against the mockers and marry this virgin-with-child anyway, abandoning his home and occupation in Nazareth to journey far to Egypt in order to keep his family safe.

Even shepherds and wise men left their daily toil to journey to a baby.

They sacrificed plans and personal agendas, convenience and reputation, money, careers, relationships…because God asked them to abandon it all for Him and for His people.

It’s an indisputable fact of Christianity, an irrefutable part of our faith…God loves people.

And if God so loved the world this much, to give His only Son….then we should love people, too.  Enough to serve without complaining and arguing.  Enough to give to others more than is comfortable.

Enough to forget the burden and remember the joy, as Mary did in her song, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name” (Luke 46-47, 49).

“I lay me down”—that’s what Christ could have sung, and Mary, Joseph, and the worshipers traveling from afar.  That’s what we sing, “I lay me down, a living sacrifice…a pleasing sacrifice to You.”

To hear Darrell Evans lead in worship, I Lay Me Down” you can click 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 the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Weekend Walk: Party Planning and A Christmas Verse

It’s all part of the plan, my strategy for party preparation.

Today is my oldest daughter’s birthday celebration with friends from school.  She’s almost a Christmas baby, so we decided to plan something simple for a small group of friends earlier in December, and she was determined that it be at our house.

So, all week long I’ve glanced at the kitchen floor with juice spills and mystery splatter and thought….”If I mop you today, I’ll just have to do it acleaninggain on Friday.  Someone will surely spill as soon as you’re clean.”

And to the dust gathering on the television stand in the living room, I promised a wipe with a soft cloth Friday evening.

I interrupted my normal vacuuming schedule earlier in the week so that I could zoom through the house just hours before the party on Saturday morning.

This has been my strategy of preparation.  Knowing as I do exactly when those first little knocks on our door will occur, I can target the precise moment when my house is the cleanest and shiniest and in most presentable shape.

I hope.

Being prepared for visitors is no exact science, you know, and it’s even less so readying ourselves for God.  Christmas, after all, focuses so much on preparation.  The Jewish people, after waiting hundreds of years for the promised Messiah, the savior of their people–and the world— felt more than ready, perhaps even impatient, for His coming.

But they weren’t.  Not really.  So God sent a messenger, John the Baptist, who shouted out the news to prepare, get ready, make yourselves right before God because the Savior was coming.

Still, when Christ came, there was no room, no readiness.  Instead there was debate and jealousy, hatred and power plays.

Only a few men and women willingly allowed God to interrupt their lives and their personal agendas in order to make room for His Glory.  Only a few were ready for obedience.

Mary, bowing the head in submission, doing chores one second and carrying the Son of God in her womb the next.

Joseph, heeding the dreams God gave Him, marry this virgin with Child, take her to Egypt to save the baby from a murderous king, travel back home when King Herod had died.

Shepherds, tending sheep in the night, earning a living, toiling as usual, following the instructions of angels to a baby in a manger, worshiping, and spreading the news across the countryside.

Sages from the East journeying for years, far from their homes and their prominence and wealth in order to lay at the feet of a child gifts of honor and adoration.

Their readiness wasn’t that of twiddling their thumbs, idling their time so that at the slightest move of the Holy Spirit they could jump up in response to His command.

Instead, they were all busy, actively serving in their jobs and homes, doing the daily thing with faithfulness, attention, and care.  And then God spoke.

An angel’s voice.
A dream.
A heavenly choir.
A mysterious star.

And they laid it all aside to follow after God, wholeheartedly, passionately, abandoning everything in order to be present and part of His plan.

May we be so ready this season and every season for God’s movement.  We don’t want to miss it! Even more than that, let us not be an obstruction or hindrance to the miraculous wonder of God.

Our Christmas verse for the week reminds us that God always knows the exact moment to move; His timing is relentlessly perfect.  Let us, then, be expectant and ready to obey Him regardless of our plan or agenda or expectation.

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship (Galatians 4:4-5, NIV).

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

Pocket Discovery

It’s an annual surprise.

Some afternoon, usually in March, I hang up my gray winter coat for the last time.  I never know which day will be the very last of the cold season. We’ve even had freak winter snowstorms in April. There’s no official ceremony or anything and the groundhog’s shadow predictions never prove perfectly accurate.

It’s just a simple thing.  One day I casually drape my coat across the hook in my closet and there it stays through spring, summer and fall.

Then on a morning usually in November I stop deceiving myself into thinking that sweaters are enough to keep my teeth from chattering.  I reach past my fall jacket in the closet, pull down that same wool coat from its trusty hook, slip my hands into the sleeves and dip my hand into the pocket.

Whatever I left there eight months before is what I’ll discover on that first pocket search of the winter season.

I’ve pulled out Mom-things, like pacifiers and baby socks (don’t all moms pop baby socks into pockets)?  Grocery store receipts unfold like magician’s handkerchiefs—always one more emerges from hidden corners.  There are pens and paper clips, ticket stubs, rocks for my daughter’s collection, hair clips and ponytail holders, cough drops, and maybe even tissues (unused, thankfully).

There’s generally little treasure among the trash.  Mostly my life out and about with my kids consists of guiding them, protecting them, and holding their stuff, periodically dumping the overflow into my pockets when my hands are full.

Occasionally, though, I reach into that winter coat for the first time in November and pull out coins.  Better yet, a dollar or two or three….or even ten.

That’s enough to make this girl happy dance in the middle of my closet.

Then, pulling myself together, I announce the news to my kids, post a happy-face announcement on Facebook and tell my husband the story later that night.

Discoveries, after all, are meant for sharing.  They’re the kind of spill-all-over joy that we can’t keep quiet about.

Maybe that’s how the Shepherds felt standing on that darkened hillside with snoring sheep.  Perhaps it even explains what the angels were doing, singing their praise songs in the night sky to an audience of somnolent herdsman about a Savior being born.

All of heaven exploded with the “good news that will cause great joy for all the people!” (Luke 2:9), the Messiah, the Lord.  They couldn’t contain the excitement!

One angel made the announcement, but others crowded the sky and joined in the chorus: “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praise God” (Luke 2:13).

The angel’s joyful news sent the shepherds tumbling all over themselves to see “this thing that has happened, which the Lord had told us about” (Luke 2:15).

When we hear good news, don’t we long to see with our own eyes, to experience this joy ourselves? 

Won’t you, after hearing my story, dip your hand into your winter coat with a little more anticipation this year?

That’s what sharing our testimony of discovery does, it ignites passion, it incites curiosity, it encourages a searching and finding of the truth, the Savior, of salvation.

Then, when the shepherds found the manger and peered over the corners at the baby-King, “they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them” (Luke 2:17-18).

They had discovered Jesus and no way could they keep that quiet.

No matter how many times Jesus asked those he healed in his ministry to keep quiet about it, still they rushed home and called up the local newspaper to tell their story.  The blind can see, the lame can walk—how to hold that in?

Jesus himself finally told one man to, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you”  Mark 5:19.

Isn’t that the story for all of us?

Our testimonies of what God has done, the discoveries of how He’s been so good to us, those moments of amazing grace and unexpected mercy in the middle of the daily grind, are all meant to be shared with others.

That’s part of the joy, extending the celebration and encouraging others to go seek our God themselves, dig in His Word, trust in His promises.  What they discover there will be worth shouting about and more cause for a happy dance than whatever treasures I pull from my coat pocket this November.

Christian Writers Blog Chain

Today’s post is part of the October topic ‘Discovery’ by the ChristianWriters.com Blog Chain. You can click on the links on the right side of this page to read more articles in this series.

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

Christmas Devotions: A Letter to a Savior

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart”
(Luke 2:19)

I was eleven and my Bible Study teacher gave our class a homework assignment for Christmas break.

Write a letter to God, she said.  Make it a prayer, a rededication, an offering of my own treasures, not the gold, frankincense, and myrrh of wise men, but the very finest gifts I could lay at the feet of a worthy God.

It was my Christmas gift to Him.  I wrote it out on Christmas Eve, folded it up, tied it with a ribbon and placed it under the Christmas tree.

Two decades later, I have twenty years of Christmas Eve letters to God.  It’s my most intimate and holy Christmas tradition. This Christmas Eve, I fingered the packet of letters and marveled at God’s gracious work in me.

One of my “rules” is no peeking at the letters on any day of the year other than Christmas Eve.  Yet, on that one night a year, I can glance back at twenty years of me drawing near to God just as He drew near to us on the first Christmas of all.

Usually by about February each year I can see clear answers to the prayers I scribbled out on the page just months before.

Like the year I prayed that God would help me overcome my need to be a people-pleaser.  Within two weeks I had actually managed to run into the deck on the back of my house with my car.

Kind of hard to see that as an answer to prayer at the time, but that’s one embarrassment that will humble you and break you of some people-pleasing!

Be careful what you pray for!

Other years, when crazy life events are happening just a few weeks into the new year, I wonder, “Did I pray for this somehow?!”

In some ways, this prayer letter is my moment to lay gifts before the King as the wise men did.  It’s my recommitment to serve Him in a new year and place at His feet the deepest desire of my heart to give Him praise.  I offer Him my very life, noting the places He is already at work in my character and asking Him for spiritual growth so I can bring Him glory.

Like the angels, though, I am also praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven” (Luke 2:14), as I give thanks and specific praise for the blessings of the year drawing to a close.

Then, like the shepherds, I turn my attention away from the busyness of work and daily life to see what God is doing in the heavens.  I write my letter to God at night after my daughters are asleep, the dishes are done, the gifts are wrapped and under the tree. There, in near-darkness, illumined almost solely by Christmas lights, I pray and write.

I look away from the “sheep” in my care, lift my eyes and attune my heart to hear the announcement of good news, of promises for the future and the certainty of promises fulfilled.  I dwell not just on what God has done or what He is doing, but what He will do in the new year.  What burdens has He placed on my heart?  What directions has He asked me to travel?  What steps of obedience has He asked me to take?

Mostly though, my Christmas letter is a moment to be like Mary, who after the shepherds came “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).  In the same way, she “treasured all these things in her heart” even when Jesus as a young boy became separated from his parents during their pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Sometimes God’s work in our lives needs times of reflection and stillness.  What He reveals to us as we sit at His feet isn’t always meant for public announcements or official New Year’s resolutions, or campaigns or church-wide programs.

Sometimes God asks us to ponder and treasure, to reflect, pray, and wait for the appointed time.

So, I ponder.  I ask for God’s perspective on my marriage, my kids, my ministry and job and heart and mind.

Instead of monopolizing my conversation with an oh-so-patient God, I ask for His input.  Before I ever begin to write, I flip through my prayer journal and track the themes I see there.

How at times everything I read seems to be about grace.  Or prayer.  Or allowing Him to bring light into dark places. Or believing God for the impossible.  Or how He is a God who restores.

I follow the clear path of what He has already been doing in my life and then I join Him there in that place.  Yes, Lord, I pray, be at work here.  I will join You.  I will be submissive and receptive to what You want to do in me.

It’s too late for you to sit in the stillness of a Christmas Eve and write your own letter this year, but the new year is just days away.  What a perfect time to begin a holy and intimate tradition of your own.  A letter to Your Savior.

What gifts do you have to lay before the King?  What songs of thanks can you sing in the night?  What do you see in the spiritual places when you shift your focus off the physical daily routine of life?  What has God been doing in you and teaching you that you need to ponder in your heart?

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