The Worst Thing That Can Happen

Our thermometer changes colors when it detects a fever, and it flashed red and beeped its little alarm at us last night.  My daughter hit the couch after school and by dinner the fever had come on strong.

Not too alarming.  Nothing to be afraid about.  Just an unexpected temperature spike at the end of a day when she had felt just fine.

She asks me questions with increasing concern, though.  What if I feel fine in the morning, do I really have to miss school?   Do I have to stay out the whole day?

I assured her that yes, fever tonight means no school tomorrow.  No question about it.

It takes a few questions of my own to root out the cause of her concern.  She’ll miss a quiz that she’ll have to make up  on Monday and that will take away time from something else she really enjoys at school.  Oh, and she’s supposed to get extra recess as a reward for some work  she did over spring break.  Plus her  friends will worry because they have a big project they are all working on together and she doesn’t want to let them down.

It all seems so “big.”  So very vital.  So much to miss out  on.  So much reason to feel pressured and anxious.

But I ask her this:   What’s the worst that  can happen?

It feels like I’ve been asking that a lot lately.  When we chat about scheduling classes for next year and my soon-to-be high schooler feels like she has to make every decision perfectly  or her whole life will be forever stunted, I  ask the question then, too.

What’s the worst that can happen?

It’s not a magic question that solves every problem, but it’s been changing our perspective a bit.  What’s the worst thing that could happen with these high school decisions?

High school goes terribly wrong and it’s all a mess and a nightmare,  so we do something else. We ask God for new direction and we leave that school and make another plan.  We have options and possibilities.  Nobody is stuck here.

So, we calm down.  We breathe a little deeper.  We know the worst thing doesn’t often happen,  but even when it does, God is with us.  He’ll take care of us.  We’ll be okay.

We have hope.

I asked it again last night of a little nine-year-old girl who is stressing out over missing a Friday at school.

What’s the worst thing?  You miss out on some special activities and you have to make up some work on Friday.  That’s disappointing maybe, but it’s something we can handle.

I don’t want to trivialize this in any way.  Mostly, we’re fighting back the enemy of anxiety, of worry, of fretting over every day situations.

Like when I’m waiting on one child to be dismissed from an activity and they are running late. Ten minutes late.  I’m starting to freak out a little bit and I’m catching my breath more than a little bit.

Then I think about what’s true. The worst thing here is that we’re 10 minutes late to the next activity on the night’s agenda.  And a few minutes late to the next thing after that.  And dinner is a bit rushed.

That’s not worth hyperventilating over in a pick-up line.

Even so, I know sometimes the worst thing actually does happen in life, and it’s every bit as hard and heartbreaking as we ever imagined.  I’ve walked through those seasons, too.   I’ve prayed “Anything but this one thing, Lord.  Please don’t let this one thing happen.”

Sometimes God answers prayers with a gentle “no,” and I have heard that “no.”

But I have also felt the sweetness of the Lord in the hardest seasons, His gentleness, His grace, His kindness, and His loving, faithful presence.  “Behold I am with you always,” Jesus promised (Matthew 28:20).

In Morning and Evening, Spurgeon wrote:

Faith’s way is to drop every care on the Lord and then to anticipate good results from the worst calamities.  Like  Gideon’s men, faith does not worry over a broken pitcher—it rejoices that the lamp shines unimpeded.”

Am I the kind of girl who frets over a broken pitcher or who rejoices over the clarity of light?

Maybe right now I’m mostly a girl who reacts to the broken pitcher.  I’m upset about the brokenness, maybe upset about the inconvenience, or the change in the plans.

Maybe I even worry so much about whether the pitcher will break that I’m afraid to be bold, to take risks, to walk in faith.

I ‘m learning, though, to see His Light and to let His Light shine even through broken places:

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5 ESV)

 

 

 

Lessons Learned from Heather the Sheep

Isaiah 40

She stared at me and I stared back at her.

One woman named Heather…..one sheep named Heather….looking across a farmyard of other creatures and people at one another.

She was probably thinking about lunch, about the quality of the grass, or the warmth of the day.

You know, sheep things.

I was thinking how appropriate it was to find this woolen sheep named “Heather” at the pumpkin patch.

I needed the reminder, with worries and unknowns, impossibilities, needs, and concerns.  I needed the message that I’m simply a sheep and I need a shepherd.

No, I have a Shepherd, a Good One, One who promises to care for me, to lead me, to bring me to rest, to provide for me, to protect me and even defend me from the attacks of the enemy and my own foolishness.

So, I can be still.  I can stop fretting over what to do and how to do it and just enjoy the grass, the day, the weather, choosing instead to rest and relax and follow along after Jesus.

Seeing our Savior this way, as our Shepherd, promises us so much….

Provision….Rest….Salvation….Deliverance…..Protection…..Love…..Belonging…..Guidance…..015

I consider, though, the responsibility.  I’m not only His sheep…I’m a Mama Sheep.  I’ve been entrusted with the care of His lambs, three daughters, one son, all looking to this Mama Sheep as she tags along after the Shepherd.

Just like Peter, sitting across a crackling fire on the beach talking with Jesus, I receive this charge:“Feed my lambs”  (John 21:15).

Not just ship them off to church once a week, maybe even twice a week, and hope someone else teaches them the basics about faith, God, and the Bible.  No, that’s my job, and the church is there to partner with me and help me, but never to absolve me of this joy and this responsibility to build into my children’s faith.

In his classic book, Spiritual Parenting, C.H. Spurgeon, teaches me:

First before teaching, you must be fed yourself: The Lord gave him [Peter] a breakfast before giving him a commission. You cannot feed lambs, or sheep either, unless you are fed yourself.

So I start with my own walk, my own growing in the Word, my own prayers, my own time with the Shepherd.

Spurgeon challenges me again:

1. It is careful work. Lambs cannot be fed on anything you please, especially Christ’s lambs. You can soon almost poison your believers with bad teaching. Christ’s lambs are all too apt to eat herbs that are poisonous….Care must be taken in the work of feeding each lamb separately, and the teaching of each child individually the truth that he is able to receive.

2. It is laborious work. With all who teach: they cannot do good without spending themselves… There must be labor if the food is to be wisely placed before the lambs so that they can receive it

3. It is continuous work. Feed my lambs is not for a season, but for all times. Lambs could not live if they were fed once a week. I reckon they will die between Sunday and Sunday. The shepherding of the lambs is daily, hourly work. When is a shepherd’s work over? How many hours a day does he labor? He will tell you that in lambing time, he is never done. He sleeps between times when he can, taking much less than forty winks, then rousing himself for action. It is so with those who feed Christ’s lambs.

It begins to feel so heavy, so overwhelming.

What if I mess up?  Say the wrong thing?  Miss an opportunity?  Sin?  Set a bad example?  Fail to address a character issue?  Fail to point my children to Christ?

Yet, just as my Good Shepherd promises me love, protection, guidance, and care for my needs, He also promises me this:

“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young (Isaiah 40:11)

This unties that one last heavy burden of anxiety and worry off my fluffy sheep shoulders.

God doesn’t just care for me; He helps me care for my family also.

God leads me, and He does it gently, as I tend to my lambs, the tiny ones He’s entrusted to my care.  Not just that, He scoops up my precious children and holds them close to His very own heart….closer than they can even be to my own beating life-muscle.

They can listen into the heart of the Shepherd, snuggled into His chest, kept safe, carried, beloved.

And I can rest knowing that He’ll help me, He’ll teach me, and He’ll show me how to feed these lambs…

Originally posted 9/25/2013

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.

Rules about Pumpkins: The Lord is My Portion

We have this long-standing family rule. My husband tells my daughters every year at the pumpkin patch before we scramble onto the tractor for the hayride out to the fields:

“You have to pick a pumpkin you can carry….yourself.…as in Mom and Dad aren’t carrying your pumpkin for you.”

They nod their little blond heads in understanding, but when my daughters hop off the back of that hay-covered wagon, their eyes scan the fields for the site of the perfect pumpkin.

And perfect typically means more than just deep orange (not green) and no rot (if they could find one without dirt on it, that’s a bonus).

Perfect usually means “big,” too.

Sometimes, like this year, one unique child will search for half an hour in that field only to pick the tiniest of all miniature orange pumpkins.

Inevitably, though, another child combines rolling, scooting, dragging, and bent-knee carrying complete with huffing, puffing, grunting and groaning to transfer her chosen pumpkin onto the tractor.

Or they’ll blink large, beautiful blue eyes in my direction and ask, “Mommy, can you help me carry this?,” hoping that somehow Mom missed hearing Dad’s speech this year.

Bigger is better.  That’s what they think sometimes.

I need more, more than I can truly carry, more than enough, more than can fit, more than is comfortable…..

As our daughters grow, so do their chosen pumpkins.

Perhaps it’s time to amend the rule because “what you can carry” seems like a dare to choose the largest pumpkin they can maneuver out of the field and onto the tractor.lamentations3

I take this dare at times, too.

Because I feel needy at times, that’s why.

In need of energy, of supply, of vision, of joy, of inspiration, of affection, of deliverance, of encouragement, of peace….and yes, of even more and more than that.

Scripture promises us this—The Lord is our Chelqi—-our Portion.  It’s one of His names, part of His character, the implicit promise dependent not on what He does or has done, but on who He is at the very core of His being.

That’s what it says in Lamentations 3:24:

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him”  (NASB)

and Psalm 73:26:

My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (NASB)

and again in Psalm 16:5:

The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
You support my lot (NASB).

He is our Portion.  He is Enough.  He is exactly what we need, how much we need, at the exact moment we need Him.

We needn’t try to fill our arms with more than we can carry, fearful that He’ll give us what we need today, but not tomorrow.

In the wilderness outside of Egypt, God rained down supernatural manna for the Israelites six days a week, enough for each day with extra to set aside for the Sabbath once a week.  And He told them this: Gather enough for today.

Just for today.  Trust me for tomorrow.  I’ll provide again.

Some of them tried to stockpile and store, thinking their own personal planning and feelings of security trumped God’s instruction.

But He meant it…daily bread.  This much, and no more, is perfect.  Trying to live off yesterday’s harvest leaves us with rotten manna, worm-filled bread, starvation for sure.

So, tomorrow and every single day we return for fresh filling and fresh provision, a perpetual looking to the Lord our Portion for all that we need.

And He is ALL we need.  We trust that He isn’t stingy or absent or moody and inclined to provide one day, but not the next.

We don’t gorge ourselves in the fields of life, choosing other methods of filling our void and our emptiness, lumbering back to the tractor with our arms filled with everything that looks so perfect, but never fully satisfies.

He is enough.  His provision is perfect in our seasons of fatigue and sorrow and desperate need .

Charles Spurgeon said it this way:

It is not “The Lord is partly my portion,”nor “The Lord is in my portion”; but he himself makes up the sum total of my soul’s inheritance.  Within the circumference of that circle lies all that we possess or desire.  The Lord is my portion.  Not his grace merely, nor his love, nor his covenant, but Jehovah himself.”

Oh yes, sometimes I think what I need is rest.  I need peace, Lord bring me peace.  God, give me joy.  Father, provide for this need.

But it’s not that He gives me a portion; He is my portion.

It is God Himself that I need, all that I need, everything that I need, and He is enough for me.

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

What I’m Complaining About…

I’ve been trying to teach her just to say, “No, thank you.”

It’s simple.  It’s polite.

Really, I don’t need an Oscar-worthy performance every time I serve mashed potatoes.

“EEEEEWWWWWW.  I HATE potatoes.  They are GROSS.  This is DISGUSTING.  Don’t put ANY on MYYYY plate!”

I’m beginning to wonder if the child has ever even eaten a single potato.  I have this sneaking suspicion that she just screams about hating potatoes because she’s decided to hate potatoes and because the rest of the family happily eats them.

The complaints are always prolonged, noisy, and accompanied by a pantomime of a wrinkled nose and contorted face.  When she’s really inspired, she might even gag a little.  Just for effect.

I’ve gone the spiritual route with her.  “Do everything without complaining and arguing,” I quote (Phil 2:14 NLT).

Everything?

Yes, everything.

Eat potatoes without the side show?

Yes.  Or at the very least, give a simple “no, thank you,” as you pass the potatoes on to the next person.

So far, that has been unsuccessful.

So, I tried the empathy route.

How would it feel if you shared something you made and people publicly whined and complained for at least 5 minutes about how terrible it was?

The empathy route isn’t working either. Lately, she’s taken to shrugging her shoulders and lying to my face: “I wouldn’t care.  My feelings don’t get hurt like that.”

Right.  Whatever.

But the spiritual route and the empathetic route work for me.  Her mealtime complaint festivals make me realize just how grating and ungrateful whining really is.

And unfortunately, I’ve been thinking about how often I’m the one doing the complaining.

We all have our weaknesses, the things that set us off and the people who get stuck listening to us complain.

You can ask my husband to be sure, but I don’t think I’m a complaining wife, per se.  It’s not really like me to nag or pester or pick him apart and I don’t really complain about him.

But it might be to him.

And it’s usually about truly annoying things:

Like the dentist’s office forgetting to send reminder cards out about our appointments so I completely forgot when I had to drop everything else in my insanely busy schedule to get my teeth picked at by sharp metal objects.

Like our house phone and Internet connection constantly cutting out on me at the most inconvenient times.

Or the store not keeping their shelves stocked so week after week after week I go to buy what I need and it’s not there AGAIN and how hard is it anyway to order more of something when the shelf is empty for goodness sake?!

Things like that.

Too often, though, we’re fooled into thinking that as long as our complaints are justified, then they’re allowed.  Or that “venting” is acceptable, even if it involves calling friend after friend not for wisdom or prayer, but so they can fuel our anger and annoyance.

It’s complaining, but it’s justified complaining.  That’s how we explain it.

Yet, when I’m being honest, I have to confess that if I’m continually complaining …then I’m a complainer.

And when we think about the negative and talk about the negative, pretty soon all we can see is the negative…in people, in life, in situations.

God knows that sometimes life is painful.  We’re not always complaining about grocery store shelf-stocking policies or bad drivers.  Sometimes our hearts are filled with deeply painful disappointment, even betrayal.

And He’s not asking us to fake it or shrug it off our shoulders and paste on happy-faced masks.

But he does ask that we bring it to Him.

Like David, we don’t complain about everything and we don’t complain to everyone around us.  Instead, we drag that cumbersome burden of cares and troubles to the feet of the only One who can carry it for us:

I cry aloud to the Lord;prayer
I plead aloud to the Lord for mercy.
I pour out my complaint before Him;
I reveal my trouble to Him.
Psalm 142:1-2

Maybe we need a trusted friend or counselor (or husband) at times to listen well, but “they should not be where we go first” (Linda Dillow, What’s It Like to Be Married to Me?)

We run to God before any other, and even when we bring these needs to Him, C.H. Spurgeon reminds us:

We do not show our trouble to the Lord that He may see it, but that we may see Him.  It is for our relief and not for His information, that we make plain statements concerning our troubles.

When I’m complaining, is it just to be heard?  Or is it so I can see God more clearly in my circumstances?

I can’t truly say that all my complaining is an invitation for God to show me His glory,

But, oh Lord, may it be so today.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King