Free to Dance

For those reading Lisa Harper’s book, Stumbling Into Grace, along with my small group, today’s devotional will match up with her second chapter: “The Very Real Problem of Pantyhose” 

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“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.

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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: http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=JM2C1MNU

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 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

Weekend Walk, 09/17/2011

Hiding the Word:

In my personal devotionals this week, I read Psalm 23—“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”

The danger of familiarity is complacency.  We become insensitive to the wonder of Scriptures that we hear and read all the time.

But I was struck anew by this powerful thought in this oft-quoted verse—“I shall not want,” not because I have a shepherd.  No, it’s because of who my Shepherd is—The Lord.  I have the best, most compassionate and capable Shepherd of all. It is because of His character that I never need to fear or worry or fret over provision and safety.

In her book, Stumbling Into Grace, Lisa Harper talks about Luke 12:22-32, where Jesus instructs us not to worry about what we’ll eat or wear because He takes care of the birds and the lilies of the field.  He loves us ever so much more than them and will care for our every need, as well.

At the end of that passage, Jesus says,

But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.
Luke 12:31-32

Lisa Harper notes that Luke’s “use of the term little flock in verse 32 is so unique that this is the only place it can be found in the entire Bible” (p. 10).

Once again, it is the fact that we are such beloved sheep of such a Good Shepherd that calms my heart and gives me peace when I am afraid. And so, this is the verse I have chosen to meditate on this week.  I’ll write it on index cards, post it around my house, and remind myself all week long of how much my Shepherd loves me.

For more thoughts on the way we sheep can trust in our Shepherd, please check out my article: Living the Sheep’s Life: Choosing Grace Over the Law.

What verse are you meditating on this week?

Book Review:

Waiting on God and being persistent in prayer—not the two easiest disciplines of the Christian walk.  But, John I. Snyder addresses both in his book: Your 100 Day Prayer: The Transforming Power of Actively Waiting on GodEach day’s entry begins with a verse and thoughtful devotional and concludes with an opportunity to pray.  The goal is to take a specific prayer request to God every day for 100 days.

Snyder’s book not only gives you verses and prayer prompts, but his daily devotionals are well-thought out and challenging.  This is more than a fluffy feel-good devotional.  Instead, it is an impassioned look at God’s character and what it means to pray with persistence.  He deals with difficult topics, such as “When God Says No” and “The Silent Heaven,” with insight and wisdom.

The author himself says, “This sustained, stubborn, never-give-up spirit of prayer is not so much to persuade God to give us what we want, but rather to transform us in the process.” His book could help transform and enliven your prayer life, as well as spur you on to greater spiritual maturity as you engage in the daily disciplines of Bible reading and meditation, prayer and journaling.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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

Learning the Ways of the Ninja

For those reading Lisa Harper’s book, Stumbling Into Grace, along with my small group, today’s devotional will match up with her first chapter: “Ewe Scared?”  I hope you are enjoying the start of the book!

“‘This is what the LORD says: ‘Do not be afraid’”
(2 Kings 19:6).

I am in training to be a ninja.

Even while driving, I can instantly stretch out my hand as quickly as a frog’s tongue and grab a mosquito out of the air.

There are splatter marks on my car door from where I have slammed my palm down on the pests who foolishly chose to land within my reach.

For those bugs who play it safe and land an inch or two farther away, I have a rolled up newspaper on the seat next to me. I am a prepared ninja.

During the first few days of school, fears of missing the bus and uncontainable excitement lured us outside not five minutes before the bus came, but ten, even twelve.  There we stood, open to attack from the swarms of mosquitoes in my front yard.

I’m pretty certain I heard them sending messages to each other, “This family is out here every morning and every afternoon—just standing there in short sleeves and shorts with lots of skin to bite and blood to suck. Come over for breakfast and an early dinner.”

I have become a wise ninja.  Now, we stand at the front door until the last possible minute and dash out to the bus just in time.  The girls are off to school and we’re back inside before the mosquitoes know we’ve even been there.

I have practiced with the weaponry of the ninja.  After two days of discovering red bites on my kids’ arms, legs, feet, necks and even faces, I pulled out the bug spray.  We spritzed every inch of revealed skin.

But still I did not let my defenses down because mosquitoes are not always defeated by one weapon alone.  One second after finishing the spray-coating of mosquito repellant on my two-year-old, a daring and bold bug landed on her leg.  He mocked me as I stood there with my bug spray still in my hand.

I squished him.

In this all-out battle against mosquitoes, I am growing wiser and more capable by the day.

I hope I can say the same in my battle against the Enemy and the greatest weapon he uses against me — Fear.

Maybe you’re afraid sometimes, too.  It’s not a God-thing “for God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).  If we’re afraid it’s because Satan pushes fear on us.  We must learn to recognize his tactics so that we can defeat the swarm of worry and anxiety he sends our way daily.

King Hezekiah faced an enemy who used fear tactics also. The king of Assyria had sent his greatest military big-shots with a large army to surround Jerusalem (2 Kings 18:17).

He had one goal—make the King of Judah so afraid that he’d surrender, just give up and hand over the keys to the holy city of God.

This was an enemy swarm if ever there was one.

The Assyrian field commander asked King Hezekiah’s messengers, “On what are you basing this confidence of yours? . . .On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me?” (2 Kings 18:19-20). 

Isn’t this one of Satan’s favorite attack methods?  He belittles our faith in God.  He reminds us over and over of the impossible circumstances we face and ridicules our confidence that God can save us against all odds.

But our confidence in God is never mis-placed.  Our faith in the midst of impossibilities may seem foolhardy to our enemy, but our God is faithful to deliver us.  We have hope because of our God’s character–His might and power; His incredible mercy.

The prophet Jeremiah wrote,

This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “ The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “ Therefore I hope in Him!” (Lamentations 3:20-24).

So we must become vigilant warriors against the barbs of fear that Satan sends against us.  The times when we look at our reality and think, “Even God can’t help me.  It’s impossible.”  The moments when we feel overwhelmed by our circumstances and Satan says, “just give up; it’d be so much easier.”

Satan sometimes makes the road to defeat seem more acceptable with minor compromises that lure us into giving up altogether.  In the same way, the enemy commander suggested to Hezekiah, “Come now, make a bargain with my master, the king of Assyria” (2 Kings 18:23).

When we allow fear to take hold, we give in.  We wave the white flag, accept whatever deal Satan is offering, and then run as fast as we can off the battlefield.

But Hezekiah ran to God instead.

He took the letter with the words from the enemy, carried it into the temple and “spread it out before the Lord” (2 Kings 19:14).  Then He prayed.  He declared God’s might.  He denounced the enemy. He explained the problem that he faced.  He begged God to “give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see.”

Then Hezekiah made the greatest request of all: Now, LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, LORD, are God” (2 Kings 19:19).

Take what you are facing and spread it out on the altar before God.  Tell Him all that you are afraid of and make a bold request—ask Him to be glorified in this circumstance.  “Be awesome, be powerful, be mighty, be miraculous—do whatever it takes, Lord, to be glorified in this situation.”

The prophet Isaiah sent this message to King Hezekiah, “‘This is what the LORD says: ‘Do not be afraid'” (2 Kings 19:6).

Then God, in a complete and utter miracle, defeated the Assyrian army and sent them back to their homeland.  And God was glorified!!

Don’t give in to fear, my friend.  Don’t give up and miss out on God’s glory.  Take it to the Lord and trust in Him to deliver you.

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

Online Bible Study: Week Eight (Chapter 15)

Ladies, we have made it to the end of our study of Priscilla Shirer’s Discerning the Voice of God and I’m so thankful for the chance to walk with you for this summer.  I urge you to take the time to comment to this post some time this week and talk about your overarching thoughts of this book or study and what God has been doing in your heart and mind these last few weeks.

For those of you catching up, these pages will remain open and available for you to go back and comment as you read each section.  We don’t want to miss what you have to say.

My small group will be starting a new book in September called Stumbling Into Grace: Confessions of a Spiritually Clumsy Woman by Lisa Harper.  In it, she discusses topics like fear, forgiveness, the importance of community, resting, being less critical and yet more honest, contentment and dependence on God.

I won’t be formalizing that into an official Online Bible Study format, but I will be following along the topics of the book with posts of my own here in this space.  So, I hope if you can’t join in my small group, you can grab a copy of the book wherever you are and read along with us.  I think you’ll enjoy it!

And, for those of you going to Women of Faith this coming weekend, you’ll get to see Lisa Harper on stage at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC!  I can’t wait!

My Thoughts

We have a well problem at my house.

Also a but problem.  And yes, I spelled that right.

I say, “Girls, it’s time to clean up.  Victoria, you put away the dolls.  Lauren, you put away the books.”

And I hear:

Well . . . she was the last one playing with them so she has to clean it up.

But playing with that wasn’t my idea; it was hers.”
Well . . . this is too much for me to clean up all by myself!”

But I’m not ready to stop playing.  I want to play some more later.”

It’s a well and but problem if ever I’ve heard one.

I’ll admit it.  God could likely say the same about me.  Maybe about you also?  God speaks to my heart through His Word, through others, through the heavy urging and impression of the Holy Spirit and I say:

But, I don’t want to stop doing this.  I’ve been doing it for years.  I enjoy it.  I’m good at it.  I’m used to it.  I’m comfortable and (this is the ringer), who else is going to do it if I stop?”

or

Well . . . you may want me to do that, but I’m scared and I don’t know how it’s all going to work out.  I’m not experienced enough.  I don’t see how doing this is going to matter in the long run.  What if I fail and mess it up?  What if I heard You wrong and I wasn’t supposed to do it after all?”

We say we want to hear the voice of God.  We long to know what He sounds like and desire spiritual discernment.

That’s what we say.  Yet sometimes we’re desperately pleading from God to hear His voice and then when He speaks, we argue with Him.  So, perhaps this waiting time, this sitting silent before a currently silent God, is more about our willingness to obey than our ability to hear.

Maybe He’s not speaking because He knows we’re not ready to obeyMaybe He’s waiting for our hearts to stop “well-ing” and “but-ing” and instead say to Him, “I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands” (Psalm 119:60).

Like Abraham, we should obey “immediately,” “the very same day,” and “early the next morning”  (Genesis 15:10, 17:23, 22:3).

Are you an early riser when it comes to obeying God’s voice?  Or are you more of a lingerer, a wait until it’s comfortable and makes sense, wait until the provision comes, wait until You can’t bear the heaviness of the Spirit any longer kind of child?

Choose to obey in advance of the command.  Set your heart on obedience.  It is the most precious worship to our God, more precious than any sacrifice you could lay at His feet.  “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22).

Chapter Outline:

Chapter Fifteen: The Obedient Response

  • On p. 174, she notes that “God does not speak simply to be heard.  He speaks to be obeyed.”  She goes on to say that if we’re not willing to commit to obedience, He may very well choose not to speak to us.
  • She notes that people who always have an “escape plan” are called “double-minded” in James 4:8.  On p. 177, she encourages you to check your heart for double-mindedness if you aren’t hearing from God.

Your Thoughts:

  • Do you have an example of a time you obeyed God even when it didn’t make sense or seemed silly or confusing, and He rewarded your obedience?
  • How quickly do you tend to obey God’s voice?  Has a delay in obedience ever been costly for you?
  • Do you have any quotes, verses or passages that were your favorite in the conclusion of the book?
  • Have you changed anything in your spiritual walk as a result of this study?
  • What’s the most important concept or thought that you’ll take away from this book?

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