Turning Aside and Saying Yes to God

I wasn’t ‘supposed’ to be there or so I thought.

Shopping off schedule, not on my normal day, shifting things around to accommodate other schedule shifts, cramming activity into the overstuffed container of life.  And now here I was, shopping at a Wal-Mart in the middle of the afternoon instead of during my normal morning jaunt through the store with a shopping cart and a coupon book before the crowd arrived after lunch.

I pushed my way through the sale items at the front of the store with my focus on my mission—shop, gather the items on my list without distraction, save money, and leave.

But then I saw her, a friend at the pharmacy counter.  Stopping for a quick ‘hello,’ the kind of cheerful greeting we small-town folks exchange in the Wal-Mart all the time, I pushed my cart to the side of the aisle hoping not to be in the way of other annoyed shoppers on mission.

This friend, though, didn’t need just a cheerful chat, but a sharing-the-heart kind of talk, a prayer right there in the middle of Band-Aids and Tylenol.

God sent her to the Wal-Mart at just that moment and then He rocked my world all crazy, turning my schedule upside down and sent me right on into that Wal-Mart at the exact same time she would be there.

I like to hold this white-knuckled control over my calendar and my agenda, fitting everything in just right and not being willing to bend, to flex, to rearrange and adjust, not without whining and complaining at least.

Yet, here is what happens when I release, open my palms and offer up the plans, saying ‘yes’ to God even in the daily.20931038_s

A few days later, God over-turned my normal routine again with special school events and unexpected trips to the post office.  There I was driving down the Main Street of town when I ‘shouldn’t’ have been and I was thinking of the to-do list items to cross off, the errands to run, the destination and the mission all over again.

But He opened my eyes to see ‘her,’ a woman I knew limping along the sidewalk painfully slowly.

I didn’t even debate over my plans.  Instead, I zoomed into the nearest driveway and she climbed into the mini-van (after I shoved aside the napkins, papers, and other Mom mess) so I could drive her to work.

A little blessing for her.

A huge blessing for me, this reminder of God’s divine agenda, the appointments He sets for us and the way I can miss them so easily in my stubborn addiction to having my own way.

C.S. Lewis wrote:

“the great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant (or unexpected) things as interruptions in one’s own life, or real life.  The truth is, of course, that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life.”

God’s involvement in my agenda isn’t always painful or unpleasant, but it does have this way of being unexpected.  Like Proverbs 19:21 says:

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

Yes, I’m a ‘many plans’ kind of person who learns slowly to yield to this God with a perfect purpose.

God interrupts, intervenes, and now I must choose—whine and complain, reject and insist on my way, or submit and adjust and trust His plans, like Moses in the wilderness outside Mount Horeb as he tended his father-in-law’s sheep.

Moses wasn’t meandering along, aimless and purposeless.  He had a plan to lead “the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God”  (Exodus 3:1).

But God lit a fire within a bush and captured Moses’s attention.

What if Moses hadn’t stopped?  What if he waited until later, choosing to finish his own plan and then return to check out the curiosity?  Or if he’d ignored the interruption, adamantly determined to do things his way, in his own timing, and in his own strength?

Oh, how Moses would have missed out on God’s glory and God’s purposes for his life and his people!

Instead, Moses yielded.  He said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight” (Exodus 3:4).

This turning aside is what God teaches me in this walk of obedience, the willingness to be interrupted, the trusting Him with my agenda and not worrying and fretting over the unexpected and the out-of-control.

Turning aside when I see God at work, I join Him there and give Him praise.

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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

Weekend Rerun: Christmas Verse

Originally posted on December 17, 2011

Mary.

She’s been on my mind this week as I wrap presents, plan to see The Nutcracker, listen to Christmas tunes, bake cookies and prepare fruit trays for class Christmas parties. She’s all wrapped up in the middle of this Christmas story.

I’ve been thinking about her even more when I complain to God about what He’s doing in my life (or sometimes not doing), or when I prepare my end-of-the-year prayer list for God and realize how much it’s beginning to sound like a Dear Santa letter.

Mary received the greatest blessing from God without asking or seeking, just by walking in obedience and purity of heart in her everyday life.

Mary’s on my mind because the angel called her, “you who are highly favored!” and told her, “The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28, NIV 1984).

So often, I feel thoroughly humbled and honored that God gave me the care of my three precious daughters. Imagine how Mary felt to be asked to mother the Messiah.

She had found favor with God.  Isn’t that what we desire?  Not the accolades or rewards.  Certainly God isn’t looking for another Savior’s mom.  We do, however, long to please God and to bring Him joy.  I want Him to peer into the deepest parts of my heart and rejoice in what He finds there, just as He did with a teenage girl named Mary long ago.

I love Mary’s sweet innocence as she stood amazed that she would miraculously be with child.  Yet, the angel assured her, “nothing is impossible with God” and that was enough for her to believe (Luke 1:37).

If God wanted to stir up miraculous and impossible events in my life, I’d question and wonder, doubt, try hard to believe, believe for a moment, then feel incredulous again.  It’d be a see-saw of faith and doubt.

But Mary believed the promise.  “Nothing is impossible with God.”  I want to believe that God can do the impossible this year.

Then there’s Mary’s submission to all that God wanted to do in her life.  What the angel was asking wasn’t easy.  We think of the honor of being mother to the Promised Messiah, and yet it was entangled with pregnancy, labor, loss of a girlish figure, potential conflict with her betrothed, and societal shame.

It was messy and hard and disruptive.

Sometimes that’s what God asks us to do, skip out on the easy and step up to the difficult.  Mary was willing .Am I?  Are you?

My memory verse for this week shows her heart:

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her (Luke 1:38)

I’ll be praying this week for a Mary heart in preparation for Christmas and for a new year.

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

Lowering the Hands, Releasing the Fists

“Mom, why do turtles have shells?”

My preschooler draped herself across the sofa, seemingly inert and bored, but truly thinking about the great mysteries of the world.

“The shell keeps their soft body safe and protected.”

“Oh.  Okay, mom.”

So far, so good.  Her questions simple, her mind and heart trusting and easily satisfied by easy answers.

My middle daughter was never so quick to accept and move on.  A conversation with her could go something like this:

“Mom, why do turtles have shells?”
“To protect their soft bodies from harm.”
“Why are they in danger and need protection?”
“Other animals might try to catch and eat them, or they might be stepped on or run over…
“Why do some animals like to eat turtles?
“Some animals are herbivores and eat only plants and some are carnivores and eat meat.  Turtles are meat.”
“Why do animals eat other animals?”
“Because after the fall in the garden of Eden, one of the curses was the destruction of the peace between animals in the animal kingdom and now some animals would be food and others would eat other animals.”

Falling back on theology or “because God said so” became my frequent defensive position.

This curiosity about the world, I love.  This exploring and questioning and wondering “what if” and “how come”–while it occasionally makes me explode and bluster out  “because God made it that way” or “because I said”– ultimately I appreciate.

Ultimately I understand.

Because I’m a questioner, too.  I want to know “why” and “how come” and “what about” and “why not?”  I want to pester God with question after question like a three-year-old first discovering the world around her.

More than that, more than asking God true and honest questions, I nag and whine and push and nudge.

Oh, and it’s even more than that.  I’ve been Jacob up all night wrestling the angel of the Lord.  I’ve locked my grip with God’s and fought hard for what I thought constituted a blessing, for a victory, for triumph over circumstances and over the Enemy who’s been battering at the walls of my life.

Yes, I’ve pummeled the chest of Christ with my fists, fighting and demanding, manipulating even, making promises, issuing threats, and crying for mercy, help, deliverance—for rescue.

I’m being honest with Him, I tell myself, and honesty is something God treasures in us.  He never asks us to fake it or play happy-faced Christian when life is a mess and this mask we wear becomes increasingly ill-fitting.

God desires truth.  Job, Habakkuk, David, Asaph, Elijah, Jonah, Mary and Martha laid their complaints before God, plead their case, and He listened and answered with awe-inspiring mercy.

He didn’t strike them down with lightning.  He let them empty out hearts filled with fear, hurt and anger and then He answered, not always in the way they expected or wanted, but still He met them in the place of pain and questioning and carried them on out.

Now, though, I’ve been studying the fruit of the Spirit and found I didn’t really get it before.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23, NIV).

Gentleness is on that list.  All those years of sermons and Sunday school lessons and I thought this meant “being nice, not hurting others with our words, kindness and tact.”

The Message translation however, describes gentleness as: “not needing to force our way in life.”

Is this Gentleness?

In Living Beyond Yourself: Exploring the Fruit of the Spirit, Beth Moore defines the root word here “praotes” as “the complete surrender to God’s will and way in your life.  The term basically means to stop fighting God” (p. 178).

Gentleness is submission to God, His will and His way, His plan and His timing and all He has determined for us.

It means dropping to our knees and pouring out the honest struggles of our heart, but deciding at last, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

It’s singing with true conviction, “Have Thine own way, Lord,” and “I surrender all.”

No more fighting God.

How then can I still be honest with Him?  How can a prize-fighter like me lower the hands and open the fists, cease fighting and nagging and choose instead to trust?

Does this require me to be fake after all?

There is my answer in the verse itself, “but the fruit of the Spirit is…” not the fruit of my own discipline or maturity, strength or ability.

This is what the Spirit at work and alive within me does—the impossible, the new, the Christ-like—As I yield and grow in the Spirit, so slowly I trust more, believe more, fall in love with Jesus more and understand how much He loves me more.

And I stop fighting Him.

I drop the knee, I bow the head, I cry the tear, I confess the pain, I trust my God and the Spirit works out Gentleness in 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