Continually, Always, Day and Night

“What did you do today?”

“We did a math activity and stuff.   Then we went outside and played on the swings and stuff.  I had my reading group so we read this book together and stuff.  And then…..and stuff…..and stuff….and stuff.”

We have discovered this pervasive verbal tic in our home and it is called, “And Stuff.”

At first, I thought it was just one particular child who loves talking.  “And stuff” became her go-to descriptive phrase about everything.

Book summaries.  TV show summaries.  Her daily activity summaries.

No matter the topic, if she is talking, “and stuff” will slip out of her mouth every 30 seconds or so.

But it wasn’t just her.  It’s me.  It’s other children.  Listen to any of us talk for a few minutes and it’s there, this two-word crutch we’re all relying on.

Me:  “Did you practice soccer and stuff?”

My Child: “I played on the playground and stuff.

How the invasion began I cannot say, but I’m onto this pest now.  I’m trying to catch that annoying “and stuff” beast in action and toss it out of here for good.

“Maybe  shake things up a bit,” my husband suggests, so my daughter tries some other phrases on for size and she feels self-conscious and a bit awkward.

“How was your day?” we ask her.

“I read my book and wrote a story…..et cetera.”  She cringes at her purposeful replacement for “and stuff.”  Why oh why can’t she just stick with her good old, tried-and-true and oh-so-comfortable descriptor?  “And stuff” seemed to work just fine!

Bad habits sneak in with expert stealth and they take over without us noticing most of the time.  Then, one day, we realize we’ll have to battle our way on out of there, one intentional choice, one purposeful decision at a time.

Every time we replace “and stuff” with a better description or an alternative phrase over here at our house we’re winning a little victory.

And that’s what these victories look like, daily, moment by moment, intentional.  We won’t kick the “and stuff” monster habit by  accident.

I need the reminder about habits and their power, so I  can be intentional, purposeful and on guard against sin, so I can quickly see and quickly hand bad habits over to the Lord and ask for His power and strength and to overcome them.

But also for this: to know how to walk in step with Christ, to battle the bad, but also cultivate the good.

How can I choose godly disciplines and refresh and renew them whenever they grow stale or stagnant?

Being on guard against sin is good, but being purposeful about pursuing Christ is what makes my faith a living, breathing, growing, thriving part of who I am. 

True Christian maturity is so much more than just standing against sin.  It is abiding with Jesus.  It is becoming more like Jesus.

So I need to know more than just what to stop.  I need to know what to do.

I’ve been meditating on this for months, seeking Scripture with my trusty pen in hand to find out what God says we should do continually, always, day and night.  What are the Spiritual habits that should define our faith-walk?

HOPE continually

But I will hope continually and will praise you more and more.

SEEK Him always.

1 Chronicles 16:11
Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.

PRAISE and GIVE THANKS continually.

Therefore, through him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name.

REJOICE always.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

PRAY CONSTANTLY

1 Thessalonians 5:17
pray constantly

SPEAK WITH GRACE always.

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.

MEDITATE on His Word day and night.

Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night.

Serve THE LORD WITH EXCELLENCE ALWAYS

1 Corinthians 15:58
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
Maybe I’m checking off some spiritual boxes every day, reading my Bible and praying.  I’m building spiritual habits and choosing good spiritual disciplines….but am I speaking with grace always?
Do I hope continually?
Far from it!  And I won’t be able to do those things ever in this lifetime if it all depends one me.
But Jesus.  He is ABLE.
Lord, do this work in me.  Reveal the sin, remove the rotten, the diseased, the dead.  And do a new work.  Plant, cultivate, grow in me this spiritual fruit . 

 

What matters more than age

My son says he is “five-ish.”

He’s actually four and his birthday  is in October, so it’s not that his birthday is coming soon.

He’s simply feeling five, so  this is his new token answer.

“How old are you?”

“I’m five-ish.  I actually look five.  Actually.”

It’s because of a little playground encounter a few weeks ago  with two little boys who became his insta-best-playground  buddies.  They climbed all over the pirate ship together, took turns on the zip line, and then spun in the tire.

Finally, they exchanged names and ages.

That’s when my son realized these other guys were five and they were shorter than he was.  So, therefore, he must look five, or at least “five-ish.”

Maybe it’s the  fact that my baby is trying to age himself or the fact that my girls all finished off another  school year and are off to bigger, higher grade levels, like finishing up middle school of all things–maybe it’s me nearing 40 and feeling all the weight of what that means and how that  looks on me….

Whatever the reason, age is on my mind.

I’ve been thinking how age is inevitable.   Growing older just happens, even if we’d rather it didn’t.

Maturity, on the other hand, is not guaranteed.

In her book Unseen, Sara Hagerty says it this way

We’ll mature without effort into  wrinkles  and gray hair, but our hearts won’t mature deep  into God by default.

But what is this maturing, this  growing up  in Jesus?

It doesn’t come by default, so then it must take discipline.  Yes.  Spiritual disciplines.  Digging into  prayer and digging into His Word and serving and listening to the Lord and worshiping.   Yes and yes and yes and again.

It’s not all so  concrete and straightforward, though.  It  isn’t just about studying and reading and knowing what God’s  Word says.

There’s the discipline of repentance and humility.  It’s stumbling our way through living out faith.  It’s getting it  wrong, humbly confessing that and asking Jesus to  renew, revive, refresh and redeem.

There’s the discipline of weakness, maybe that’s the hardest for me.  When I  am feeling most  dependent on Jesus because I’m not strong enough or capable enough on my own,  I  have to lean.  Leaning can feel like so much brokenness and that’s hard, but it’s also sweet because that is exactly when I know Jesus more.

Failing, messing up, making mistakes, feeling frazzled and overwhelmed:  It’s all my weakness on display, but  I cannot pull away from the hard season, from the difficult or the wearying or the unknown or even what I just haven’t mastered yet.

Christianity isn’t about being perfect; it’s about being transformed.

Then there are the quiet seasons, when life seems to just roll  along day after day, seemingly stagnant, same-old, same-old.

Restless.  I can be so restless.

I want to see big results.  Big change.  Big impact.

Then I read the reminder in Isaiah of how to grow in the discipline of waiting:

but those who trust in the LORD will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not become weary, they will walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31 CSB).

I love  this verse in all of the nuances in each translation.

“Those who TRUST in the Lord”  (CSB).

The NIV says “Those who HOPE” and the ESV says “those who WAIT.”

We trust Him.  We hope.  We wait.

The discipline of waiting tucks itself into seasons of quiet and of hiddenness and of not knowing.  It’s about lingering for direction and looking forward to  seeing God at work, but not seeing that work just yet.

When we trust and we hope in Jesus even in the discipline of waiting, we can soar and we can run,  but oh friend,  we can also walk.

Somehow that walking seems  like the greatest feat to me.  Soaring can be exhilarating, running shows great power,  endurance and strength.

But walking takes unique courage.  Walking takes persevering hope.   We’re not seeing leaps of progress, but  we will  not give up.  We aren’t quitting and setting up camp in a land of complacency or dormancy.

We’re being steady,  daily, consistent, steadfast, and faithful.

When the soaring is done and the running is finished and we’re feeling  bone-tired, still  we walk with the Lord today.   Then the next day, we get up and we walk with Him again, and we will not faint nor fail.

I remember that it takes discipline to repent humbly, to fail graciously,  and to wait patiently.   That means I can buck less against what feels uncomfortable or hard and instead embrace what God is doing in me right here and now.   I’m not just arbitrarily aging; I’m maturing in Christ.  Lord, be at work in me.

People actually still do that?

“Fasting?!  People actually still do that?”

Right in the middle of our family devotions this week, my daughter registered pure shock.  We laughed, we explained,  and then we considered the truth: How could she know that fasting is still part of our faith-walk today?

Our hope is that our kids see us practicing the spiritual disciplines because we should be living them out, not just preaching them:  What does prayer look like?  What about Bible reading?  Serving at church and elsewhere?  Loving others?  Giving?

Can they see these in our lives?

We’re imperfect and they’ll never see perfection if they look at us.  Still, we try to live our faith out day in, day out–not just  in the church, but in the home, and the office, and the minivan, and the meeting, and more.

But fasting is unique.  Scripture tells us when we fast not to let others know we’re doing it, so we tuck this one discipline away into a secret space with the Lord.  We don’t talk about it.

Somehow, though, we need to break through the silence enough for my kids to know that fasting isn’t some archaic religious practice confined to “the olden days.”   It’s a here-and-now spiritual discipline that helps us re-place Jesus as first in our lives.:  First over our wants.  First over our desires.  First over even our physical hunger.

Lord, I want you more than anything.

That’s the declaration we make when we forego something good in order to seek God more fervently.

And Jesus didn’t say to his disciples, “If you fast…”

He told them, “When you fast” (Matthew 6:16 NIV).

So, we laid out the basics for our kids.  About how fasting is usually, but not always, from food (especially for those with health needs that preclude fasting from meals).  We talked about Lenten fasting and fasting out of obedience to the Lord’s call, how fasting can be meaningful and how it can end up meaningless tradition.

We reminded them that fasting isn’t meant to be a public show put on to satisfy our spiritual pride.  If anything, it’s deeply humbling to know how needy we really are.

It’s not about proclaiming our strength or superiority; it’s about longing and dependence.

That’s what Jesus described:

Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”

15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast (Matthew 9:14-15 NIV).

Our bridegroom is gone now, just as Jesus said He would be.  Now that Christ is no longer walking this earth, we’re filled with that insatiable longing, a constant desire for His presence.  And it’s that seeking after the Lord’s presence that motivates us to fast.

We fast because we need Jesus.

This world surrounds us with its mess and its disaster.  Evil oppresses.  Sadness overwhelms.  School  shootings  harass us with fear.  Conflict tosses us into intense storms and we cry out for the peace that only Jesus  can bring.

It’s all  because we’re looking for our Bridegroom, our Lord, to  return again and to  bring the total victory over death,  over the grave, over  evil, over sin, over everything broken and wrong and sick and painful.

In the meantime, we languish.   We long.  We seek.  We wait.

We hunger.

Not for bread or hamburgers or pizza or pasta.

We hunger for His righteousness.  We hunger for Christ’s presence right in the middle  of the mess.  We hunger to know Him more fully and to see Him more  clearly.

We want Jesus more than we want the answer, more  than the provision, more than the solution we’ve been seeking.   We channel all that misplaced want to the only One who can satisfy our truest, deepest need.

We want you, Lord.

Fasting reminds our bodies, minds, and hearts that Jesus is not just our greatest desire; He is the best we could ever desire.

When we do this, when we choose more Christ and less us, when we discipline our very own bodies to go without so we can choose Jesus over all else, the Lord can break through.

It’s not that there’s a magic formula here.  It’s not that fasting today means insta-answer tomorrow.  It doesn’t mean that fasting always guarantees a grand revelation.

Fasting does, however, position us to  seek the Lord, seek Him wholeheartedly, seek Him without distraction, seek Him with determination and focus.

Then we cling to  the promise:

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13 NIV).

Taking a Spiritual Retreat When You Can’t Get Away

spiritual retreat

I’ve always needed to retreat spiritually, to run away for an afternoon or spend a weekend away in quiet.

I’m an introvert and a workaholic.  I’ll fill up every available space in my day with to-do list items and then crash from the emotional overload from the noise.

I must get away in order to be healthy: spiritually, emotionally, physically.  My sanity and spiritual well-being depend on it.

That was true before I had kids.

Now I have four little people who don’t fully understand the sacredness of “Mommy Time Out” at the kitchen table with my tea and my Bible.

When I sit down, alarms go off all over my house that only children can hear.  It’s a secret alert system that lets them know, “Mom is about to sit down.  Quick, find something you need!!”

Last Saturday morning, all four of my children needed me for everything and anything nonstop.  I probably heard the word “Mom” 200 times in 2 hours, including from one child who thought the best way to get attention was to repetitively say the word, “MOM” over and over and over and over again until it finally floated into my circle of awareness.

Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom.

A incessant drone of need.

Just when I need to retreat the most in life is when it’s hardest to get away.

I’m feeling it this week—the crush, the breathlessness, the emotion that gushes out of me at the slightest bump from life and the unexpected and other’s attempts to heft one more load onto my shoulders.

 

How exactly do you take a retreat when you can barely slip away for an hour or so after dinner for a break and some quiet (and maybe groceries?)

Let’s be honest.  There’s no easy answer here.  I’m not going to pretend and push a heavy burden songofsolomon2
of “you must get away even when it’s hard” down on your shoulders.

Some of you are single moms or homeschooling moms and I feel so whiny complaining about how hard it is for me when I think of what it costs you to retreat for a few short minutes.

Yet, time away with God is what we crave, what our souls need so that we don’t suffocate and die from spiritual dehydration.

The truth is some of these ideas will work for you and some won’t.  Some you can fit in when school is in session if you don’t home-school. Some of them require effort and help from a spouse or a friend.

Here are some ways to take a spiritual retreat without breaking the bank or staying away overnight:

  •  Spend some time in your garden.
  • Take a walk alone.
  • Treat yourself to a good book. Sometimes I feel guilty reading for fun. Don’t feel guilty.  Enjoy a story for a while.
  • Read a book slowly. Choose a book to read just one chapter a day.  Let it soak in.  Think about what the author is saying or just relax into the story.
  • Discover a new hobby or re-discover an old one: Puzzles, knitting, sewing, crossword puzzles.
  • Create something.  Rejoice in our Creator God as you make something beautiful.
  • Unplug from social media.  Don’t check your email or Facebook after 8 p.m. perhaps or maybe don’t answer messages after 4 and spend the evening resting with your family and enjoying some time off.
  • Exercise without watching TV.
  • Take an afternoon field trip: Visit the library, a museum, botanical garden, the beach, or a bookstore for an afternoon, but go by yourself.  Sit and read.  Walk a little.  Journal some, read some, rest a lot.
  • Slow down with some fast food:  Meet up with God for a date, just the two of you.  Treat yourself to an ice cream sundae or a cup of coffee.  Sit in the corner booth by yourself with your Bible.  The only words you say to another human that day might be, “I’ll have one scoop of chocolate, please.”
  • Take a bubble bath—just be sure to lock the bathroom door so little ones can’t continue to pester you long after they are supposed to be in bed
  • Early morning cuppa:  I’m not one to wake early before my kids.  I’m a young mom and sometimes snagging a few more minutes of sleep in the morning is the most spiritual, holy thing I can do.  But every so often, an early rise for a quiet time on your back deck before the little ones emerge from their beds is worth it.
  • Mommy time out:  When you simply cannot get away, a Mommy Time Out is worth a try.  Set the timer in the kitchen and announce that mommy is unavailable for 15 minutes unless there’s an emergency.  This takes training!  Everything seems like an emergency to a four-year-old.  Keep on trying, redirecting and training until your children understand the sacredness of the Mommy Time Out and then treat them to a game of Candy Land or a special snack when they’ve given you the time you need.

How do you “retreat and refresh?”  Do you have any ideas for how to take a spiritual retreat without going away overnight? 

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 book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2015 Heather King

You Can’t Move On if You Never Stop Moving in the First Place

By Monday, I already feel behind for the week.

The laundry is spinning, shushing it’s way through washing machine cycles and dryer loads.

The dishwasher is halfway empty.  I’ve been grabbing clean plates and cups all morning as I walk by.  Grab and stash in the cabinet, go about my business and return for more on the next pass.

My daughter’s arts and crafts from Sunday afternoon have left a Monday morning mess.  Scraps of paper and felt dot the living room and dining room carpet. Popsicle sticks are scattered here and there on desks and tables in the playroom.  There’s a pile of papers topped by markers and scissors, and glue sticks overflow onto the floor.

And the glitter.  Oh, the glitter.  The playroom is aglow.

I’ve been fielding phone calls and catching up on e-mail messages and social media all morning.

And I feel the crunch of time, the deadlines and the to-do list, and part of me feels frustrated and maybe a little breathless.

Deep down I want to blame the Rest.

Why am I behind?  I reason it out.

Because yesterday I rested.

Because I didn’t do any laundry on Sunday.  Because I made origami cars instead of vacuuming.  Because I read my book instead of writing.  Because I take a break from social media and don’t answer emails and now they’ve piled up on me.

I unplugged from busyness and plugged into family and soul and beauty and joy and God…and rest.

Of course, I’ve thought it before.  I probably will fight the lie for a long time: If I just didn’t take that break once a week, I wouldn’t be so busy and so behind now.

That’s the struggle.

This resting is counter-intuitive.  It isn’t what makes sense to me in my self-focused, rational way of looking at life.exodus14

And yet, it’s necessary.  This walking away, this stepping back, this slowing down, this breathing in and out, this ceasing activity, this stopping the rush, this halting of busyness….it’s worship.

It’s obedience.

It’s humility.

It’s trusting God to take care of my little world and the whole wide world without me, and realizing just this: the world spins on and moves along even when I take a break.  This is the shocking revelation that I need. It’s God, not me, that keeps it all going.

Without the rest, we wouldn’t really get very far anyway.  Oh sure, it seems to make sense.  Do laundry on Sunday so the basket isn’t so full on Monday.  Write on Sunday so Monday morning there’s less pressure to rush to the computer and type away.

And yet, how far would we really make it before we crashed?  How long could we go before our pride exploded and we forgot that God is really the one in control, so we ended up on our face in a forced and painful humbling?

The truth is that moving forward doesn’t require perpetual movement.  It demands moving when God says, “Move” and resting when God says, “Stop.”

After all, how far would Elijah have managed to run without the food, drink and rest the angel brought him before his journey?  (1 Kings 19).  How long could the disciples have ministered, traveling on foot and mobbed by crowds, without time away with Jesus?

How could Israel have made it to the Promised Land without seasons of rest by the mountain of the Lord, beside clean water, and with peace from their enemies?

Even when they were pursued by the Egyptians, facing opposition and recapturing, still God didn’t tell the Israelites to grab their handmade weapons and armor and strive against the enemy.

Instead, “Moses told the people, ‘Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.’” (Exodus 14:13-14, NLT).

Stand still.  Just watch.  Stay calm.  Let the Lord fight for you.

Just rest in Him.

But they couldn’t stand there forever, looking at the Red Sea and never crossing over.  They had trusted God in the waiting.  Now they could trust Him in the moving:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving!” (Exodus 14:15 NLT).

So it is for us.  We trust Him in the waiting and in the resting.  We trust Him in the moving and the battle …. and the laundry, the dishes, the to-do lists, the emails, the phone calls, the meetings, the appointments, and the deadlines.

Originally published 1/14/2013

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I Practice Sabbath-Keeping’?

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 book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

 

 

Learning to Linger

I’m tempted to rush.

On a rare day when I have this time, the temptation is there to fill it right up with more activity, more going and more doing.

Most days, I don’t have this luxury, of course.  It’s the mad morning scramble of toothbrushes, hair brushes, ribbons, bows, socks, shoes, lunches and backpacks to send children out to the bus stop.

Then, zoom into the day with the baby and the errands or meetings or Bible studies or appointments or whatever busyness has etched itself onto the schedule.psalm 27-14

But this day.  This one day.

After I watch my girls step onto that school bus, I return to my home and breathe in and out this uncertain freedom.  I don’t have to run out the door.  I don’t have to meet an external agenda or deadline until the afternoon.

So what to do?

Rush through my home, stuffing laundry into the washing machine and another load in the dryer?  Frantically move cereal bowls from sink to dishwasher and then grab the broom (maybe the mop if I’m inspired).  Respond to messages.  Catch up on the to-do list.  Fill out the forms.

So it goes, me filling up this one little space of time with too much, cramming in activity and sitting on the lid in hopes it will fit.

My tea, poured hot this morning turns cold.

My morning devotions, rushed through just to be done, leave me unfilled, uninspired, unopened to what God wants to say.

Too busy…too busy…just always too busy.

But today I consider Joshua.

Moses met with God face-to-face in a tent.  A pillar of cloud covered the entrance while the Israelites looked on from the flaps of their own tent dwellings, bowing in worship in the doorways.

When Moses finished talking with God, he returned to the camp to share the message with others.

Not Joshua, though.

“his assistant, the young man Joshua son of Nun, would not leave the inside of the tent” (Exodus 33:11 HCSB).

He wouldn’t budge from the glory and the presence, lingering there stubbornly while others moved along.

What if I chose to linger here….chose to be Joshua refusing to leave the tent as long as God’s glory electrified the air….chose for this one day to be Mary at the feet of Jesus rather than Martha slamming pots in the kitchen?

Because serving perpetually means serving empty and that means dying of spiritual starvation and dehydration.

We need the Mary moments so we can re-enter the kitchen as Martha and care for others cheerfully and ably until we have that opportunity once again to lay down the dish towel and sit at Jesus’ feet.

It’s not practical, of course.

That crowd of more than 5000 who sat on the hillside listening to Jesus hour upon hour should have been watching the clock.  They should have known what time it was and how long they had to travel back for food.  They should have abandoned the sermon and packed up their blankets and lawn chairs at a reasonable time so they could eat dinner at a reasonable hour.

Yet, Jesus rewarded their time in His presence.

Had they left early, they would have missed the miracle.

In order to witness God’s glory, they had to wait, they had to sit patiently and linger there until they received.

This is what I consider as I spend this month Sabbath-Keeping during my year-long pursuit of the presence of Christ.

In Living Beyond Yourself , Beth Moore writes:

“He placed them in a posture to rest in His provision.  He commanded them to “sit down” and fed only those who were “seated” (vv. 10-11) . . .”Are you ‘sitting down’ in a posture of trust and sitting quietly to receive it?  If so, prepare the baskets!”

For me, it’s just this one day a week to take my morning slow before the afternoon and evening wave of stress and busyness crashes down again.livingbeyond

For you, it may be a morning, a day….even a season of sitting and waiting on that hillside so you can see His glory, or a season at Jesus’ feet instead of in the kitchen, or a season of lingering in the tent.

Whatever the length of the wait and the stillness, it’s a discipline to rest rather than rush.

When we remain there, though, insistent on lingering where His presence is, we see His glory displayed and He fills us up with the sustenance of His presence and His Word.

But only when we wait until He says it’s time to move on.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I Practice Sabbath-Keeping’?

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 book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

If I sit down for 15 minutes, will there be a cosmic meltdown?

I made a Mom-speech in the minivan to my kids as we headed home long past bedtime the other night:

These two weeks are going to be crazy busy.  You will be tired. And that means you’ll probably be grumpy.  When we get this tired, the ugly comes out.  So, for the next two weeks we have to show each other extra grace and patience and we need to rest whenever we can….

As soon as my speech ended, they continued bickering over prime-seating in the minivan and when we got home, they fought over prime seating during nighttime prayers and who knows what else.

I made the speech again.

I do this for my kids: I prepare their hearts and minds for busy seasons.  I remind them about grace.prayerrest

I ease the burden some, removing some expectations, allowing them to slack off in some areas so they can focus on what’s important right now.

I give them this breathing room.

But I don’t often do it for myself.

In my 12-month pursuit of the presence of Christ, I’ve reached November—the month when I’ll study and focus on the Sabbath.

And interestingly enough, I’m entrenched in two of the busiest weeks I’ve had since school ended last year.

Isn’t God funny that way?

I’m slowly reading Priscilla Shirer’s study: Breathe: Making Room for Sabbath and she teaches me about building Sabbath Margin into my life.  How to leave space for God to work.  How busyness can crowd out His will.

How there’s only so much time and if I’ve packed in the activity too tightly, I’ll run out of room to breathe.

But rest takes great effort for me.

It’s a spiritual discipline that I struggle with.  I’m better at keeping up with my yearly Bible reading plan and juggling multiple Bible studies and devotionals, memorizing Scripture, praying, and journaling than I am about obeying this Biblical command:  Rest.

I’m physically incapable of napping.  Instead of sleeping, I lie awake thinking about all the things I should be doing instead of sleeping.  By the time I finally give up and throw back the covers in defeat, I’m frantic about the wasted time and move faster through my to-do list to make up for it.

I feel guilty for leisure, embarrassed by free time, and apologetic for fun.

Taking a break feels like laziness.

There’s something else at work here beyond just an addiction to adrenaline.  Oh, how I hate for it to be true, and yet digging down deeply enough reveals its ugly presence—-pride.  Truly, it feels good to be needed.  It feels important to be so busy.

When I run around in a breathless pace, doing, doing, doing all the time, I act as if the world depends on me to function, as if me sitting down for 15 minutes would create cosmic meltdown.

And that’s why God, from the very first week of creation, instituted a Sabbath rest.  It wasn’t for His benefit, as if the Almighty God who created a sun, moon, and planet with the power of His words grew weary and needed to sleep.

No, the Sabbath was not for God.  Instead, Jesus “said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man” (Mark 2:27).

The Sabbath is for us.

It’s a reminder that the universe can exist without our involvement and labor.  It’s a re-ordering of our perspective, so that we remember it is God who is essential and not us.

So often, we forget that our jobs, our families, our ministries, our relationships, our everything depend not on our ability, but on God’s power.

We stress about meetings because we think everything relies on how well we present ourselves.  We plot out conversations because we think the outcome depends on the words we choose.  We think.  We plan.  We do.  We fix.  We busy ourselves.  We worry.  We analyze.  We lose sleep.

God knows the pride that burrows itself into our hearts; the tentacles it wraps around us as we seek fulfillment in accomplishments, in tasks completed, in people depending on us.

Sabbath isn’t about Pharisaical hypocrisy and legalism.  It’s not about do’s and don’ts.

It’s about Rest. 

And Rest is about humbly stepping aside. 

It’s about the placing and continual re-placing of God in control of our lives.

So, I’m going to take some rest time.  At least for next week, I’ll stay quiet on the blog….spending time reading, creating, being with God, being with my family, instead of writing and posting on my regular days.

I’ll be back the following week and I’ll announce the winners of the big giveaway, so keep entering!!

And I’ll hopefully remind my soul that it’s all about Him, always Him, never me.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I Practice Sabbath-Keeping’?

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 book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

What if God is in this place?

What if God is in this place?

It may not always seem likely.  Not when you’re elbow-deep in soapy dish water, or pulling out the third wipe from the tub while doing diaper duty.

Not perhaps while cradling a tiny babe at 2:00 in the morning so he can eat or zooming from school to ballet while quizzing children on homework questions at the same time.

And not when passing back sandwiches to little people in the car as you spend a night away from home moving from activity to activity.

Yet, this is the place I inhabit, the Mom World.  It’s the life where my schedule is dictated by the schedules of other, tinier, needier people.

There was a time….there will be a time….when I can linger over tea, a Bible, a prayer journal.DSCF2151

For now, though, I’m scribbling Scriptures onto index cards and reading devotionals in a parked car while waiting in a line to pick up my kids here, there, and everywhere.

God has to be mobile for me.  He has to be everywhere I go.  He can’t be confined to one hour, one specific holy place, one quiet spiritual atmosphere.

No, He has to be God amidst the loud, the stressful, the busy, the on-the-go, the tired.

We talk about the discipline of a quiet time, the need to establish a routine and stick with it no matter what.  Schedule your time with God….that’s the advice we give.

For most people, there’s wisdom there.  Make a date with God.  Write it down on the calendar.  Protect the time.  Do the habit until it becomes a habit.  Persevere until it becomes second-nature.

Sometimes, though, in some special seasons and particular times, this advice leaves us defeated.  My schedule is different each day of the week.  A newborn baby can cry and change my plans in one unexpected instant.

If I’m inflexible, too rigid, only ‘doing devotions,’ only meeting with God in this one place at this one time, I will miss Him.

I’ll miss Him completely and utterly.  My life would be devoid of heaven and communion with my Savior and I’d be one stressed out Mama ending every day emptier and emptier than the day before.

Yet, there’s Mary in Luke 1, a teenage girl busy with chores, doing common, everyday things on a common, average day. That’s when an angel appeared and announced she’d carry the Messiah.

God was at work.  She couldn’t see Him…not when hauling water and baking bread.  Still, God was in that place, active in her life, preparing the greatest plan of all plans to display His will and His presence in the world.

And then there’s Jacob, the runaway rogue, the trickster fleeing his home and family because he’d made his brother, Esau, mad enough to kill him.

All Jacob did was fall asleep on a stone pillow and God was there, displaying a stairway up to heaven and bringing blessing and promise for Jacob’s future.

What could Jacob say, but:

“Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” (Genesis 28:16 NIV)?

That’s it exactly, what I’m thinking, what I’m praying for and hoping to accomplish even with four young kids and a husband and a ministry and a life…

To be aware.

I don’t want to walk in and out of this life unaware of God in this place—right here, right now, right in the middle of everything I’m doing and everywhere I have to be.  I can wait for some future moment when an uninterrupted hour of quiet is an everyday commodity, but how much better to ask God to inhabit this busy, stressful, active, full life, the very life He’s given me?

After all, even when we set apart time and places for holy encounters, we can miss seeing His glory.

Zechariah the priest entered the holy place for a once-in-a-lifetime encounter with God….and yet when the angel appeared to him and announced that he’d be the father of the Messiah’s forerunner, Zechariah “was startled and was gripped with fear” (Luke 1:12 NIV).

What was God doing there in the temple?  What was God doing there on this spiritual day?

Zechariah stood in a holy place at a holy time and didn’t expect to see the holy.

But I want to be expectant in the holy places and in the places that seem steeped in the mundane.  God, please meet me here in the mini-van, here helping with homework, here making dinner, folding clothes, washing dishes, packing lunches, feeding a newborn.

May I remember that yes, God is in this place.

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

Tap-Dancing and Life

She tossed open the box from Payless and snatched out the two shiny black shoes with metal plates on the bottom.

Tap shoes: Her little six-year-old heart’s great desire! She slipped her feet in and immediately started performing.

Then my eight-year-old crammed her feet into the shoes and put on a grand show.  My three-year-old even stepped into the shoes and shuffled round the kitchen a bit.012

They were like magic shoes, all shiny and loud, and they transformed any girl into a superstar on a grand stage.

On the first day of tap lessons, my girl clip-clopped her way into the dance studio along with the other excited students. I heard them take those first steps onto the wooden floor, hesitant at first, and then heard them break into freestyle tap routines of their own.

How could they resist?  This studio and those magic shoes made them all feel like Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire.  It was inspiration and joy and visions of grandeur accompanied by tip-tapping rhythm.

Then the lessons began, and the order to contain the disorder…the structure, the routine, the method to the madness.

It’s a slow realization for a kid, but eventually it comes: tap dancing doesn’t just mean slamming your feet on the floor in any combination of athletic flailing you choose.

You have to practice.

Bummer.

You have to watch and listen and then move in just the right way.  You have to drill and rehearse and repeat.

For a week, I asked my daughter to “shuffle” and “flap,” and practice, practice, practice.  Then, because I know absolutely nothing at all about tap dancing, I asked her if she was doing it right (because, after all, how was I to know?).

She rolled her eyes at me occasionally and huffed loudly at times, blowing her bangs up off her forehead in exasperation.

Reluctantly or not, though, she practiced.  When she returned to class and shuffled correctly and the teacher announced, “You all must have been practicing,” that was the reward.  My daughter beamed.

She loves tap, she declares.

Life and tap-dancing, they can convince us all at times that inspiration is all we need.  They can woo us into running on spiritual and emotional highs.  We’re at our best.  It’s fun and grand (and noisy perhaps).  And the lessons and the practice come easy.

Quiet times are easy, too, when God is speaking so clearly we can hear His voice ringing in our ears. When that time with Him is overflowing, it’s no great discipline to carry our bucket to the Well.

And we have these seasons with Him, where we’re hearing and learning and it’s thrilling to be used and useful, to see ministry grow and faith deepen, to see prayers answered and miracles happen, to read God’s Word and actually feel it tingling in our souls.

It’s a slow realization for us, perhaps, but eventually it comes: This walk with God isn’t always easy and the emotions and the highs and the results we expect aren’t always immediate or obvious.

Truly, it’s discipline.

It’s waking up, pouring that cup of tea and opening up that Bible not because it feels so good, but because this is how we grow over time.

It’s going to church even when the sermon isn’t about your needs and singing even on days when it’s hard to really mean the words on the screen.

It’s praying even when you don’t sense the connection and it feels like silent heaven and empty air.

It’s committing to Bible study even when you’re busy, tired, distracted, complacent and just downright don’t feel like it.

Yes, it’s practice and rehearsing, repeating, growing slow and steady, committing and then choosing not to give up–not today, not tomorrow, not a week from now.

It’s feeling the desperation of the deer panting after water and heading to the stream even when it’s elusive and difficult to find.

And like, Elijah, it’s listening for God’s voice even in despondency, depression and despair.  He stood on that mountain and listened for God.  Even after the mighty wind passed by, the earthquake ceased shaking, and the fire abated, still Elijah listened.

He could have given up: God’s not speaking.  I couldn’t see Him in the big and the obvious, the glorious and spectacular, the emotional or the ear-shattering.

He could have headed back into the cave and abandoned the effort.

And then he would have missed it.

No, Elijah continued to stand, waiting, listening, still.

And God spoke.

Sometimes it’s there in the quiet that we hear God simply because we haven’t given up.  We’ve continued to stand in His presence beyond the silence, faithfully and determinedly waiting…listening…still.

Beyond the point of inspiration, fun, glory, and ease, we discipline ourselves to listen.  And so we hear.

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

A Pentecostal Girl in a Baptist Church Reads the Book of Common Prayer

“Look, girls, this is Abraham Lincoln’s hat!  Isn’t that amazing?  His actual hat that he wore on his actual head!  Cool, huh?”

“Yeah, mom, cool!  Wow” and then they skipped off to the side where a touch screen terminal allowed you to pull up videos on almost every historical subject ever.

“Oh….my….goodness…” I exclaimed. “It’s Kermit!  It’s THE ruby slippers!”  “Look at this!  It’s George Washington’s desk and his field kit.  Wow!  George Washington touched this.”  Incredible, huh?”

“Cool!” my daughters said as they turned back to the museum’s electronic history mini-game.

On a recent trip to the National Museum of American History I learned that young kids don’t really share my appreciation for relics of the past.  They liked history well enough and enjoyed the trip.

Yet, they were drawn like magnets to all the electronic gadgets and doo-dads the museum had added to make the exhibits more interactive.

I, on the other hand, could have just stood in front of a hat, a cane, a chair, and a medical kit and marveled all day.

Perhaps one day, when they’ve learned how quickly time rushes us through life and how people matter, when they discover that it’s hard to make an imprint on this world and leaving a legacy long after death is a marvel, then maybe they’ll treasure relics, artifacts and heirlooms–the physical reminders of people from the past.

For now, though, it’s just “stuff” and the people are little more than black and white photographs on a history book page.

I’ve been thinking recently about the heirlooms of faith, not just salvation itself and the handing down of the Gospel.  But the prayers and readings that unite us to a long history of Christians, centuries and centuries of believers on their knees echoing the same thoughts and words before God’s throne.BookofCommonPrayer

One of the family “heirlooms” I keep on my fireplace mantle is my Grandmother’s Book of Common Prayer.  I’ve had it there since her death years ago, but I’ve never once opened it up.

The tradition of her faith was so very different than mine. I grew up in a Pentecostal church that taught me valuable faith-lessons, doctrinal foundations, daily Bible reading, personal, intimate and honest prayer, and passionate worship.

My faith is alive and vibrant today because I was taught and encouraged to be personal and interactive with God. I wouldn’t trade or change that foundation for anything.

I feel like I’m drawn to the idea of liturgy, though, much like a museum visitor gazing at Lincoln’s hat and thinking about how this “thing,” this “physical object” connects us to living and breathing people from the past.

I’m not changing churches, denominations, or my personal statement of faith.

Yet, how important it is to remember that salvation isn’t new to 21st century Christians.  Connecting with the past reminds us anew that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). It reminds me that God cared for His people since the creation of the world and that my testimony of His faithfulness joins with the testimonies of believers for thousands of years.

God is bigger than me and bigger than my brief time on this earth. 

I’m curious about this prayer book sitting unopened on my shelf.  First published in the 1500s, it was meaningful for centuries, uniting the hearts of God’s people to pray and read Scripture together.

It was a way of ordering your spiritual walk, not based on your own personal whims, emotions or circumstances, but on the life of Jesus Himself—beginning with the first Sunday of Advent and the account of Christ’s birth.

The object itself isn’t holy, isn’t to be worshiped and isn’t inerrant other than the Scripture readings themselves.

Yet, there’s something breathtaking about opening a prayer book on the first Sunday of Advent and reading the same Scripture passages that Christians have read on this very same day for hundreds and hundreds of years.

And while these pages may be oft-read and well-worn for many who have followed those traditions year after year, for me—for a Pentecostal girl attending a Baptist church in the year 2012—opening the Book of Common Prayer is a wild act of discovery.

Usually each December, I choose my Bible reading plan for the year ahead.  I’m typically a One Year Bible-kind of girl.  This season, though, starting this first Sunday of Advent (Dec. 2nd), I’ll be following the two year-Scripture and prayer plan in The Book of Common Prayer.

It’s a long-held tradition, an heirloom that I’m taking down off a shelf and making new and fresh for me.

What will be you be doing to keep your faith alive and growing in 2013?

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For more information on the history of the Book of Common Prayer, what it’s all about, and how to use it, you can visit this site or watch this video on why it can be used along with spontaneous and personal prayers to build our faith.  The daily Bible reading schedule is provided here.

Christian Writers Blog Chain

Today’s post is part of the November topic ‘Heirloom’ 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 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