Mom, This is Embarrassing

It was my oldest daughter’s first big school project and she was nervous about it.

After reading a book about a character named Flat Stanley, she had to color a picture of him, cut him out, take him all around town on some adventures and then write about all the things that Flat Stanley did.

“Mom,” she whined, “I don’t want everyone to see me playing with a paper doll!”

“What paper doll?  This isn’t a doll.  It’s Flat Stanley!  He’s a prop, maybe a puppet, perhaps your best friend. C’mon; it’ll be fun!”

I wasn’t persuasive enough for her.

So, we started out by posing in front of the statue in the center of our town square.  We waited until all the other sight-seers passed by and then whipped out Flat Stanley for a picture.  My daughter scanned the area to make sure nothing embarrassing happened.

He shared a picnic lunch with us, sat in the town supervisor’s chair, and then toured the  museum.  By this time, my daughter had overcome the embarrassment and discovered the crazy fun of the day.At our local park, he see-sawed, climbed, investigated a hollowed-out tree and swung on the rings.  Flat Stanley even completed the exercise trail!Tired from all of his adventures, Flat Stanley finished off the day with some frozen yogurt.The next day, we made sure Flat Stanley came to church, where he danced on the piano keys, of course!

As we toted this little guy around town, it was a clear reminder to me that God is our Emmanuel; He is God With Us.

This is our great assurance and comfort, so we can stop being all embarrassed about it.  No more whipping out God when only other Christians are around and posing for the necessary spiritual photos.  Like Paul, we can proclaim, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16).

Why be embarrassed when we have such a promise and hope?  This was God’s design from the beginning–to be with His people in everything they faced.  He shared perfect fellowship and communion with Adam and Eve as they strolled in a paradise garden together and chatted about their day.

Even when sin sundered their relationship, God designed ways to be with His people.  He gave instructions to Moses for the tabernacle, which was a portable worship center.  Everywhere the people traveled, they could worship and sacrifice to God.

God’s design for the tabernacle was specific.  He gave every detail of dimension and material.  It’s not because He’s a micromanager of a deity or because He’s dull and boring and liable to put people to sleep when you spend time with Him.

It’s for this one incredible and amazing reason—the tabernacle God designed for the earth is a reminder of what’s to come in heaven.  In Hebrews we read: “They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: ‘See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain'” (Hebrews 8:5).

Here’s the point.  The Tabernacle was God’s idea.  He created a way to be with His people wherever they went.

The temple, the set in stone, unmoveable center of worship in Jerusalem wasn’t God’s initial idea.  It was King David’s.

David wanted to make a permanent dwelling place for God on earth.  Even Nathan the prophet thought this sounded like a great idea and gave God’s blessing on the building project.

But God had something to say about this.  That night, He told Nathan the prophet, “I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought Israel up out of Egypt to this day. I have moved from one tent site to another, from one dwelling place to another” (1 Chronicles 17:5).

Ultimately, after David’s adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah (her husband), God prohibited David from building the temple at all, allowing his son, Solomon, to construct it instead.

But, all along God had another plan.  He sent Jesus—-God in human flesh.  He sent the Holy Spirit—the indwelling presence of God in our lives everyday and everywhere we go.

We don’t have to wait until heaven to feel His presence.

We don’t have to trek across the world on a spiritual pilgrimage to find the only place where God lives.

We don’t live with segregated lives for the times and places we meet with the God and the times and places we leave Him home.

We don’t face anything in this life alone.  Not one single trial.  Not one hurt.  Not any temptation or sadness.  No fear.

It is God’s presence in our lives at all times and in all places that brings us joy, hope, comfort and courage. As God said to Joshua, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

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

Christmas Devotions: Easy Bake Faith

Last year during the week before her birthday, my oldest girl was asked one question repeatedly by friends and family alike.

What do you want for your birthday?

I grimaced every time I heard her answer, which was exactly the same for everyone who asked.

An Easy Bake Oven.

It was the one true desire of her little girl heart, an oven all her own to create delicious treats, host tea parties and open restaurants.

This mystified me.  I am a baking mom.  We often huddle around the kitchen table taking turns pouring ingredients from a recipe into a bowl, mixing and stirring, filling trays and pans and then licking spoons.  We’re the four musketeers of cooking, a team of kitchen queens.

Why, I asked my girl, did she need a mini oven of her own?  Why did we need to spend $6 on a mix that produced two sugar cookies of doubtful quality when we could bake dozens of scrumptious cookies for less money in our own regular oven?

My logic was impeccable, unanswerable, indisputable.

But the commercial conspiracy defeated me.  Any time the television was on, advertisements sang the praises of the Easy Bake Oven and she plead with me for the one gift that would please her little heart.

I couldn’t bring myself to buy the Easy Bake for her, but a sweet friend did. It made my daughter’s day and proudly assumed its place on our kitchen counter.

I know what you’re thinking.

How long before the precious Easy Bake Oven joined the rank of unused toys shoved in the closet?

Never.

She still loves her oven and is inspired to create with it as often as I give into the whining request to use it.

It still confuses me.  Yet, all I have to do is provide some safety supervision and guide the creating process.  She pours in her teaspoonful of water.  She eases the cookie tray into the oven.  She pushes it out the other side when the timer goes off.  Fortunately, she also eats the cookie since I consider them inedible.  Then she declares that it is in fact the best thing she’s ever eaten.

I try not to be offended.

So why does this Easy Bake Oven bring her so much joy?

It’s the independence of it.  The feeling that she made this cookie herself.  The power of self-determination and personal creation.

It’s the speed of it.  The longest amount of time is simply spent warming up the light bulb.  Mix in a little water, plop the batter on the tray, push the tray into the oven.  It’s a matter of minutes before her own personal cookie emerges fully cooked.

And who can blame her for loving this?  Aren’t we so often entranced by advertisements for the perfect “toy” that will bring us independence and speed?

In just two easy steps you can have fantastic creations just like this!  You can look like this!  You can make your own!

Anna and Simeon, though, knew that God mostly desires dependence and patience.

Simeon was “righteous and devout” (Luke 2:25) and he spent his life waiting for “the consolation of Israel”—the Messiah.  Even more amazing to me, is that “the Holy Spirit was on him” (Luke 2:25).

Pause there for a moment.  The Holy Spirit didn’t live in each and every Christian on the earth at that time—because Christians didn’t exist yet.  Jesus was still being rocked to sleep at night by a doting mother.

Yet, Simeon walked so closely with God that the Holy Spirit found a unique dwelling place in him and revealed that Simeon wouldn’t die without seeing the Messiah’s face.  Then, “moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts” (Luke 2:26).

Most of us would be honored by a special, intimate relationship with the Lord, but we might balk at surrendering all of our independence in order to receive the fulfillment of His promises to us.

Simeon did just that.  He moved into the temple and, as a result, was in exactly the right place at the right time when Mary and Joseph carried Jesus to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord.

Anna, a prophetess, had moved into the temple also.  She had been a young widow after only seven years of marriage, but instead of remarrying and settling into the busy life of a wife and mom, she instead “never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying” (Luke 2:37).

Anna surrendered everything in order to devote herself to her relationship with God.  And He blessed her willful dependence on Him.

She was there that day also when Jesus entered the temple for the first time.  Simeon lifted baby Jesus into his own arms and praised him and prophesied over him. Anna walked over to them just at that moment and “gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38).

Just like Anna and Simeon, we can devote ourselves to seeing God, but we can’t pursue our own independent, quick-solution agendas in order to achieve spiritual growth, answers to prayer, fulfilled promises, or the revelation of His will.

We can’t have Easy Bake faith.

Instead, we must abandon our own course and commit ourselves to a patient and passionate pursuit of Him.

That’s what Anna and Simeon did.  They didn’t run after every false Messiah that the world touted and promoted.  They fasted, prayed, and worshiped in the night and in the day for decades.  They made their relationship with God their highest priority and their only true desire and thus they saw God.

How is God urging you to be both dependent and patient in your faith for the new year?

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.