Catching Fireflies on a Summer’s Night

Originally posted July 6, 2012

For one who has died has been set free from sin.”
Romans 6:7

It’s what summer looks like to me.

Stepping out into the slightest hint of coolness in the final minutes of a hot summer’s day, we carry an empty Mason jar with a foil lid folded down over the edges of the glass.  The sun drifts down and the light dims so that we can see the fireflies at play.

Last night, I called them “lightning bugs” like we did as kids, and my daughter scrunched up her nose in confusion.

Lightning bugs.  Fireflies.  It’s the freedom of summer.  We stay up past bedtime and run around the yard swinging our arms and cupping our hands trying to catch one. firefliesfreedom

On TV, whenever you see a jar of fireflies, it’s lit up, a natural lantern for the evening jaunt.

But I haven’t seen this.  Last night as I watched the few captives in our jar, they remained dark.  They didn’t expend any energy for light.  Instead, their every effort remained focused on escape.  Most of them immediately scaled the jar and sat at the top, right up against the foil, just waiting for me to open the lid again so they could fly to freedom.

Usually, we manage to defeat their various tactics and keep them in the jar until the end of the night when one daughter whines because she didn’t catch one and another daughter begs to catch just one more.  Then they all ask if we can just keep them overnight or for an hour or just a few minutes.

Pleeeeease?   Pretty please?

But I’m sympathetic to the plight of our captives.  So, before we trudge inside we lift up the foil lid and let loose the fireflies.  They jump into the air and without hesitation light up—probably sending out a warning that predators are on the move.

Whatever their message, freedom helps them shine.

Their freedom comes at little cost to them really.  They’ve made attempts at escape, but most have failed.  Ultimately, their freedom flight simply requires me to lift the foil beneath my fingers.

Our freedom, however, is costly.  Physically, most of us receive the gift of freedom because of the sacrifice of others.  I read this week that Thornton Wilder, the famed American playwright and novelist, fought in both WWI and WWII.  People like him paid the price for people like us.

In the same way, our spiritual freedom carries a high price tag, one we could never pay.  Instead, we are the recipient of freedom because of another’s sacrifice.

Paul tells us:

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

Freedom is God’s design for us.  It has always been His intention and plan and Christ willingly paid the costly price on our behalf.

Jesus is a freedom-giver, a defeater of oppression and freer of captives.:  “…God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10:38 ESV).

But Paul charges us with a task, as well. Christ offered us freedom and now it is our job to “stand firm” and refuse to submit to slavery again.

It seems foolish and yet we often choose prison over the freedom Christ offers.  We sit in the bottom of our Mason jar, unwilling to fly and light up the night.  Perhaps we want to do it on our own, scale the glass, escape the lid.  Perhaps the night air is too frightening and the jar too comfortable because it’s what we know.

Do you do this?

If anxiety is your jail, do you rebuild the prison walls by wallowing in fear, allowing your mind to travel where it shouldn’t, looking up information that you know will disturb you, inciting emotions and then letting them run wild?

When the rigors of legalism and the chains of people-pleasing threaten to oppress you, do you submit–check the boxes, follow the crowd, follow expectations, try not to rock the boat, don’t do anything crazy or radical?

If shame holds you captive, do you allow Satan to throw your past in your face, to call you names, to cover your eyes so you can’t see the totally loved, totally forgiven person Christ has made you?

God never meant for you to live oppressed.

So, now that He’s offered you freedom . . . live free by living in truth (John 8:32).

Combat lies with the Word.
Feed on a diet of Scripture so that doubts and Satan’s schemes starve.
Be alert to the first sign of shackles and chains as Satan, the world, and even your old habits try to sneak them onto your wrists and feet.

Freedom is Christ’s gift to you, so refuse to accept captivity any longer.  He’s called you to shine and to fly and to share the message of sweet, sweet freedom with other prisoners.

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

Did Jesus Get Splinters?

“Mom, did Jesus get splinters from the cross?”

My daughter doesn’t really know how to whisper.  She somehow manages to make her voice breathy and full of air, but still push the words out with a great deal of volume.

I mentally apologized to the audience members in front of us and behind us, who had come that night to see the Ballet Magnificat dance in worship and to tell the Exodus story.

But then the dancers surprised us.  They fast-forwarded in time to our ultimate Deliverer, Jesus Christ, who sacrificed Himself to give us freedom from slavery to sin.

There He was mocked and scorned by the crowd.
There He was beaten and nailed.
There He was hoisted onto the weathered wood and left to die.
There He cried out in pain.
There He died.

You never know what might make an impression on a child. I had already answered  whispered questions about slavery in Egypt earlier in the program.

Because, as many times as we had talked about the story and read the account in the children’s Bible . . . . and as often as my daughter had heard it in Sunday School and Children’s Church and Awana . . . somehow she had missed the part of slavery where it’s horrible and evil and frightening and relentless and hard and unfair and cruel.

So, the sound of the whip cracking and the way the slaves dropped to the ground in fatigue and despair shocked her.

You mean “slavery” is this?  It’s not just a happy little Jewish community living in tiny houses on the outskirts of Egyptian cities?

No, my baby girl.  Slavery is a pharaoh ordering that every male baby be killed at birth.  It’s waking up every morning to labor hard and long for someone else, no freedom to worship or rise above or choose for yourself or provide for your family.  It’s whips and rods and beatings and shame and being less than.

Why are the slaves working so hard, Mom?  Why is he beating them, Mom?  Why do they look so tired, Mom?

All whispered in my ear and what to say in that moment of hushed conversation other than, “That’s what slavery is, honey.  Didn’t you know?”

But how could she know?  We have a way as humans of protecting ourselves from knowledge that hurts.  And we have a way as parents and teachers of watering down the truth so we don’t frighten kids (or ourselves).  And we have a way as adults of sanitizing reality so we don’t have to face the ugly horror of it.

But when Jesus told the crowd that the truth would make them free, they didn’t understand: “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” (John 8:34).

They had forgotten their people’s four-century-long history, of slavery in Egypt, and how God sent them the deliverer Moses.

Jesus reminded them: You, yourself, have a lifelong history of slavery to sin and “a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:35-36).

I explain this later to my daughters, when whispering is no longer mandatory, and we have the time and space to talk.

Did you see how terrible slavery was for the Israelites?  Jesus says we were slaves to sin in the same way.

And did you see what Moses had to give up in order to deliver the people out of Egypt?  He couldn’t keep his fancy room in the palace, his princely clothes, his royal position, his delectable foods.  He sacrificed all that to lead his people out of slavery.

But Jesus gave up more.  Paul tells us that Jesus “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8).

My daughter knew about the nails and the crown of thorns.  She knew about the cross.  But the scornful cries of the crowd, that she couldn’t understand.

Then, while watching the dancers portray Jesus’ crucifixion, she thought of the most horrible thing she could imagine, the thing that terrifies her into wearing shoes on our deck and the thing that has sent her into fits of screaming on our couch when we pull out the tweezers.

Did Jesus get splinters from the cross?

Why yes, baby girl, he probably did.  But he did it for you and for me.  He hung bare-skinned on a rough wooden cross so He could deliver us and set us free.

That’s the truth of costly grace and the Savior who paid the ultimate price: splinters, whips, mockery, the weight of sin, separation from God, and death and all.

How can you keep from forgetting what Christ has done for you?

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

Remembering: Free to Dance

Free to Dance
Originally posted 09/19/2011

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery”
(Galatians 5:1).

My mom will still tell you I was the best little four-year-old ballerina in my class.  I knew every step in our recital routine perfectly.

Performance night arrived and I was decked out in my ballet outfit and felt super fancy with my parasol.

Stepping onto the stage, I glanced to my left and realized my teacher stood in the wings.  She mouthed the words, “Watch me” as our music began.

So, I watched her.  She stepped.  I stepped.  She twirled.  I twirled  She lifted her pretend parasol up.  I lifted up my prop, as well.

I thought it was odd that she was also frantically shaking her head no and making strange motions with her hands in between each move. Then I noticed that all the other girls were one step behind me and the teacher, and I was mortified on their behalf.

They were all doing it wrong! An entire stage full of tiny ballerinas, and I was the only one doing the routine correctly!  Could they not see the teacher shaking her head at them and telling them what to do?

Determined to obey the instructor, I dogmatically refused to match my steps to the other girls in my class.  After all, who was most likely to be right—the teacher or a dozen four-year-old girls?

What I didn’t realize was that the teacher had been one step ahead of the routine the whole time.  She was showing us the move that was coming next, not the step we were actually on.  So I, in all my stubbornness, had been one step ahead of the actual routine for the entire performance.

That, my friends, was the end of my very promising ballet career.

On the other hand, I’ve spent years of my life worrying about what the audience thinks of me and fearing what will happen if I make a mistake and mis-step.  Not that my ballet fiasco is to blame for that, but it’s there nonetheless.

It’s the very real straightjacket of people-pleasing.

In her book, Stumbling Into Grace, Lisa Harper writes, “Jesus provides freedom, regardless of what’s been cramping our stories” (p. 19).

I don’t know what restricts you or binds you or has you so tied up that you miss out on the glorious freedom that Christ brings, but worrying about what other people think of me—well, that’s been my personal prison for a long time.

And even those of you who boldly announce all the time that, “I don’t care what other people think of me,” may deep down in the depths of your tender soul do just that.  Maybe you desperately care about what other people think after all.

You want them to have a high opinion of you.  You want them to agree that the choices you’ve made as a woman, as a wife, as a mom are the right ones.  You want people to see you’re an awesome mom and you’re a great wife.  You want them to be blind to your mistakes. You want them to buy into the persona you’ve created for yourself—that you’ve got it all together, that you’re smart, strong, capable, and surely superwoman in the flesh.

And our great fear, the thing that just rips us to pieces—is what happens if people realize we are . . . . not perfect.

And the thought that even when we’re doing the right thing or doing our best, some people won’t approve . .  that’s devastating.

In Genesis 29, we read about a precious woman who longed with all her being to be good enough and to perform well enough to earn her husband’s love.

There wasn’t ever any doubt about it.  Jacob’s “love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah” (Genesis 29:30).

My heart just breaks for the unloved Leah.  So did God’s.  “When the LORD saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive” (Genesis 29:31) and in quick succession, she gives birth to three sons: Reuben, Simeon and Levi.

When each son was born, Leah revealed what was in her heart:

  • “Surely my husband will love me now” (verse 32)
  • “Because the LORD heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too” (verse 33)
  • “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons” (verse 34)

She was buying her husband’s affection with babies.  More particularly, the male sons that a man in Jacob’s time and culture prided himself on.  Rachel may have been loved, but she remained barren for many years while Leah delivered son after son.

Still, Leah never once was able to perform well enough to earn Jacob’s love.

Eventually something clicked in Leah’s heart.  After having four sons for a man who still didn’t love her, she finally declared at the birth of her fourth baby, “‘This time I will praise the LORD.‘ So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children” (Genesis 29:35).

For one brief moment in her life, Leah threw off the crippling chains of trying to please a human being and flung her unhindered arms open wide in worship of God.

Because God cared for her immensely and unconditionally.  God thought she was beautiful.  God thought she was worthy of notice.  God lavished on her the gift of four healthy sons. 

And that, for the moment, was enough.

Is it enough for you to know that God loves you?  Is it enough to know that you are obeying His instructions?

We people-pleasers can’t often escape from the binding fear of what others think about us in one magical moment.  No, it’s a battle.  It’s an active choice we make over and over to make pleasing God our supreme life passion rather than allowing the expectations of others to bind us hand and foot.

Paul wrote, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

Christ offers you freedom.  Glorious freedom.  So, stand firm in that.  Stand confidently assured of your calling.  Dance to the song He has given you and perform only for Him.


I’m excited to share with you one of my most favorite songs on the freedom that Christ brings.  I hope you are blessed by it.

Hear the song here:

Free by Ginny Owens

Turnin’ molehills into mountains,
Makin’ big deals out of small ones,
Bearing gifts as if they’re burdens,
This is how it’s been.
Fear of coming out of my shell,
Too many things I can’t do too well,
afraid I’ll try real hard, and I’ll fail–
This is how it’s been.
Till the day You pounded on my heart’s door,
And You shouted joyfully,
“You’re not a slave anymore!”

“You’re free to dance-
Forget about your two left feet
And you’re free to sing-even joyful noise is music to Me
You’re free to love,
‘Cause I’ve given you My love
and it’s made you free

My mind finds hard to believe
That You became humanity and changed the course of history,
Because You loved me so.
And my heart cannot understand
Why You’d accept me as I am,
But You say You’ve always had a plan,
And that’s all I need to know.
So when I am consumed by what the world will say,
it’s Then You’re singing to me, as You remove my chains-

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