When I Fell in Love….

I can’t say exactly when I fell in love with this man.

He was on stage the first time I saw him, portraying Mr. Elton in a production of Jane Austen’s Emma (my favorite), and I was an audience member.   I laughed loud and long when he delivered the first line of the play while pretending to read from a book:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

I heard my laugh hit the silence of the auditorium.  Apparently, I was the only one who got the joke (as a character from Emma read the first line from Pride and Prejudice).  And so I slumped into my chair wishing someone—anyone—shared my sense of humor.

I actually met him a week later after a college worship service.  Someone in the crowd pointed to the guy up front strumming the guitar.  “See that guy,” he said, “You just saw him on stage last week.”

Unbeknownst to me, this young guy who led worship and the drama ministry and acted in productions based on my favorite literature had just prayed a daring prayer two weeks before.

He told God he wasn’t looking for a relationship any more.  He was content to be single until God hit him over the head with a 2 x 4 and told him “Thou shalt marry this girl.”

I met him two weeks later.

And a week after that, I was the new pianist on his praise team (and he’s still my worship leader even now).

I fell in love with the way he used his gifts and talents for God’s glory.

There was his calmness, too.  I loved my dad, but life with him wasn’t calm; it was loud much of the time and sometimes downright volatile.  This man, though, measured his words with wisdom and careful thoughtfulness.

And the first time he dropped the word “obsequious” into a sentence effortlessly, I think I experienced whiplash. (I’m a sucker for SAT words).

Add to that his quick and witty humor that kept me giggling endlessly in the corner of the praise team section, and I realized that he was smarter than me and that was okay.

We’ve never been an opposites-attract kind of couple.  We’re probably two of the most alike people who God matched together.

Except for the fact that he only cares about doing what’s right and not whether it pleases anyone else while I’m a people-pleaser.

And the fact that he can rest and take time (perhaps . . . dare I say it . . .procrastinate) and I’m neurotically pushed to do and do and do relentlessly, first, fastest, and rest when you die.

I can’t say when it happened, but at some point I fell in love.112339-20130114

I can’t speak for him and say exactly why he fell in love with me.

Nor can I say exactly why God loves any of us either, surely not my awkward, nervous, uptight, worrying self.

Amazingly, though, this isn’t a “fall in love” kind of love at all.  God doesn’t grow to love any of us over time or awaken one morning and realize how much He cares.

He loves us.

It really is the beginning and the end of our story.

Like the first time I saw my daughters, I loved them in an instant.  I didn’t slowly grow to appreciate their character or develop feelings for them over time.

In Jeremiah, God declares:

“before I formed you in the womb I knew you”  and David similarly prayed, “you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:13).

God loved you before you squinted your eyes at the first burst of light, screamed out and got cleaned off, bundled up and handed to your mom.

He loves you when you feel loved and when you feel overlooked, when you received a blessing and when you endured a trial.  This love of his doesn’t wax or wane, change or alter or depend on us and what we do or say or feel or think.

We’ve never been good enough, pure enough, beautiful enough, or wise enough to earn it.

But even though we’re unworthy, even when we’ve strayed, even when we’ve felt that seemingly incurable distance from Him or poured out in painful honesty what’s troubling us…

Still He loves.

He says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3).

And what can we do with this everlasting and unfailing love, so amazing and confusing because it’s far more than we deserve?

“We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Originally published September 24, 2012

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

When I Fell In Love

I can’t say exactly when I fell in love with this man.

He was on stage the first time I saw him, portraying Mr. Elton in a production of Jane Austen’s Emma (my favorite), and I was an audience member.   He delivered the first line of the whole play while pretending to read from a book:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

Immediately, I laughed aloud, until I realized that no one else seemed to get the joke.  More than a little uncomfortable, I slumped down in my chair.

(The first line of Pride and Prejudice was ‘read’ by a character in Emma.  There now, aren’t you laughing?  This is the kind of thing that strikes me as hilariously funny.)

I actually met him a week later after a college worship service.  Someone in the crowd pointed to the guy up front with the guitar.  “See that guy,” he said, “You just saw him on stage last week.”  I think I even confessed to being the girl who laughed at the first line of the play all by my lonesome self.

Unbeknownst to me, this young guy who led worship and the drama ministry and acted on stage in productions based on my favorite literature had just prayed a daring prayer two weeks before.

He told God he wasn’t looking for a relationship any more.  He was content to be single until God hit him over the head with a 2 x 4 and told him “Thou shalt marry this girl.”

There I was two weeks later being introduced to him.

And a week after that, I was the new pianist on his praise team (and he’s still my worship leader nearly 15 years later).

I fell in love with the way he used his gifts and talents for God’s glory.

There was his calmness, too.  I loved my dad, but life with him wasn’t calm; it was loud much of the time and sometimes downright volatile.  This man, though, measured his words with wisdom and careful thoughtfulness.

And the first time he dropped the word “obsequious” into a sentence effortlessly, I think I experienced whiplash. (I’m a sucker for SAT words).

Add to that his quick and witty humor that kept me giggling endlessly in the corner of the praise team section, and I realized that he was smarter than me and that was okay.

We’ve never been an opposites-attract kind of couple.  We’re probably two of the most alike people who God matched together.

Except for the fact that he only cares about doing what’s right and not whether it pleases anyone else while I’m a people-pleaser.

And the fact that he can rest and take time (perhaps . . . dare I say it . . .procrastinate) and I’m neurotically pushed to do and do and do relentlessly, first, fastest, and rest when you die.

I can’t say when it happened, but at some point I fell in love.

I can’t speak for him and say exactly why he fell in love with me.  Nor can I say exactly why God loves any of us either, surely not my awkward, nervous, uptight, worrying self.

Amazingly, though, this isn’t a “fall in love” kind of love at all.  God doesn’t grow to love any of us over time or awaken one morning and realize how much He cares.

He loves us.

It really is the beginning and the end of our story.

Like the first time I saw my daughters, I loved them in an instant.  I didn’t slowly grow to appreciate their character or develop feelings for them over time.

In Jeremiah, God declares, “before I formed you in the womb I knew you”  and David similarly prayed, “you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:13).

God loved you before you squinted your eyes at the first burst of light, screamed out and got cleaned off, bundled up and handed to your mom.

He loves you when you feel loved and when you feel overlooked, when you received a blessing and when you endured a trial.  This love of his doesn’t wax or wane, change or alter or depend on us and what we do or say or feel or think.

We’ve never been good enough, pure enough, beautiful enough, or wise enough to earn it.

But even though we’re unworthy, even when we’ve strayed, even when we’ve felt that seemingly incurable distance from Him or poured out in painful honesty what’s troubling us…

Still He loves.

He says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3).

And what can we do with this everlasting and unfailing love, so amazing and confusing because it’s far more than we deserve?

“We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

How can you respond to God’s love 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 the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Weekend Walk, 06/23/2012

Hiding the Word:

Last night, our kids colored their last craft, ran around the gym for the last game, and tasted their last snack of Vacation Bible School.  All week long, we taught the kids to trust God . . . no matter what.

Whoever they are . . .
However they feel . . .
Even when people hurt them . . .
Even when bad things happen . .  .
And anywhere they go . . .
Trust God

Sounds so simple.  Sounds so childlike.  Sounds so easy.

But of course we know the truth.  Most of us need the constant reminder, encouragement and challenge to trust Him.  We need a perpetual bright red string tied around our finger.

So, this week I’m choosing to meditate on a verse that speaks truth about that trust.

It’s not based on anything I do or whatever I muster up in my own strength.  We trust God because of His steadfast, unfailing, loyal, everlasting covenant love for us.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
    my heart shall rejoice in your salvation (Psalm 13:5)

Weekend Rerun:

After a week of lessons on Group’s Sky VBS!, I’m reminded of the lessons I wrote last year on the Group PandaMania VBS.  This was one of my favorites that week:

God Loves You, No Matter What
Originally posted June 23, 2011

After a conversation with a friend this week, I recalled the first time I had to turn over my green card on the classroom behavior chart and leave the yellow card on top.  I was in third grade and had forgotten my math homework.  The teacher asked us to hand it in and I quickly zipped open my backpack to grab up my finished paper.

Only it wasn’t there.  So, I pushed things around gently and then more energetically.  I scrambled through the papers and then yanked everything out.  Slowly I realized my paper wasn’t in there.  I had nothing to turn in.

So, I had to shuffle over to the behavior bulletin board and take my punishment.  A yellow card for Heather.  Bright yellow so everyone in the class could see I messed up.  I forgot.  I was careless and irresponsible.

Embarrassed, I slinked back to my desk and slumped down hoping to become invisible in my chair.  My face was burning red hot, the kind of shame that makes your ears sear into the sides of your head.

But, when I sheepishly glanced at the bulletin board the next morning, I saw a green card next to my name again.  It was a new day and with it came a rush of joy that the mistakes of yesterday could be so simply erased and forgotten.

It was the astonishing grace of a fresh start.

That’s what Christ did for us.  Raising us up from the dead.  Taking our place on the cross and erasing the record of our wrongs so that we could stand before the Most Holy God and look . . . holy and pure.

He saw you and me as worth saving even when we were splattered with the mud of sins and caked in the foul dirt of this world. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

So, what should we do with this amazing grace?

I know what I do most of the time—forget it, take it for granted, or, even worse, nullify it by trying to be perfect.  I begin to live in a spiritual world of musts, shoulds, do’s, don’ts, shalls and shall nots.

The Psalmist wrote, “If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?  But with you there is forgiveness; therefore, You are feared” (Psalm 130:3-4).

Yes, we would be pounded into the ground if we carried the weight of our sins on our wimpy shoulders.  We couldn’t stand in His presence much less crawl face to the ground before His throne.

But.

But with Him there is forgiveness.  Praise God!

The Psalmist ends that thought with, “Therefore, You are feared.”  Not the fright of might, though.  Not the run and hide kind of fear.  Not obeying God to escape His wrath.  Not surrendering to Him in order to earn His love.

The Old Testament Bible Knowledge Commentary says this is the fear of “worship and obedience.  The Scriptures state that many results come from fearing the Lord; the most notable is that the person keeps himself from sin.”

In January of this year, I felt the heavy nudging of the Holy Spirit asking me two questions, one of which was, “Are you ready for where I want to take you next?”  The God who loved me passionately was asking me to walk in worship and obedience—holy fear in response to abundant grace.

“That depends,” I answered.  “Where are we going?  How long will it take?  What is the expense-to-benefit ratio?”

It sounds mercenary, but those are the questions that rumbled around in my head and heart for weeks.  Was it safer to stay where I was?  Was safer necessarily better?

His question sounds so simple and easy when we belt out “I surrender all” in a church service.  Then there’s that moment when God takes you up on your offer and asks you to surrender your plans for the future, your comfort, your life, and you wonder how much “all” actually is.

And then I felt it, the pull of performance and the tug on my heart to just do what God wants so He’ll love me, so I won’t let Him down, so I can live up to what a Bible Study girl should do.  It was a works-based response of duty rather than the bride’s response of affection to the overwhelming passion and love of her Groom.

So I waited to answer God.  I waited until I truly believed that God would love me no matter what.  That the choices I make here may affect God’s plans for me, may affect my impact on others, may affect how I am blessed, but they will never affect His unconditional and unending love.

Only then, in the light of so much grace, knowing that I answered Him out of love and not duty, I bashfully answered, “I do.”  I do want to go with You.  I do want whatever you desire for me.

Why do we obey Him?  Why do we whisper “I do” when He asks us to surrender?  Why do we choose the difficult right over the much easier wrong?

So He will love us?  No—because He loves us. 

We ask Him to “lead me along the path of everlasting life”  because there’s no other place where we can walk next to Him, our tiny palm nestled inside His nail-scarred hand (Psalm 139:24).

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.

Devotions from My Garden: Breaking Ground

It is an annual ritual in my house.

The first time I push aside the leaves and mulch in our garden and discover tiny green shoots in the earth, I call for each of my kids.  We stand around in awe and anticipation, just spending a few moments looking down at our first sign of spring.  It feels so wonderful, so hopeful, to see physical evidence that the coldness and deadness of winter will be ending soon.

So far, my youngest daughter is the only one I haven’t yet put to work in the garden. Although, even she was beginning to carry weeds to the wheelbarrow and dig into the soil last year.

When my baby girl sees these little green leaves, it may seem almost like magic.  The rest of us, though, know that before we can enjoy the fanfare of brightly colored spring tulips and daffodils, we had to plow up the earth, plant the bulbs, weed, and protect them from weather that is too harsh.

Our efforts didn’t produce much at first.  These bulbs didn’t grow all fall and into the winter.  We’ve endured a full season of drab brown and gray.  It’s only now, months after their original planting, that we see evidence of growth and life.

As Christians, it’s easy to forget that in order to grow and produce life, we have to let God work in our hearts.  It’s sometimes painful and we don’t always see the purpose of this work right away, but our fruitfulness depends on it.

Last year, I felt God turning over the soil of my heart, sifting out the deep-rooted sins that have to be removed before I can produce fruit.

From the surface, I may have looked like good soil before this.  Sometimes it’s the sins that we can easily hide from others that are the hardest to dig out.  Yet, He knew about those hidden sins that I manage to keep so private—sins like pride and jealousy, and He’s been digging them out with firmness and yet with so much grace.

We may think we’ve given over all of our lives to God.  We may see some fruit and think that it’s enough.  Yet, God will always ask us to draw closer to Him, to give more of our lives, to break up unplowed ground and allow Him to work in the areas we’ve previously kept from His hand.

Sometimes in real life, I’m tempted to just dump a whole bunch of mulch on top of the weeds, hoping they suffocate under the load.  It’s that way in my heart, too.  It seems easier somehow to just dump a righteous façade on top of my bad attitudes, lack of trust, and other heart problems and hope that those sins remain hidden.

Any good gardener, however, will tell you that the only way to get rid of weeds is to completely remove them, roots and all.  It’s work—hard work—but it is what needs to be done to ensure the quality of the soil and to produce the best harvest.

In Hosea 10:2, it says, “Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until He comes and showers righteousness on you” (NIV).

If God has been urging you to “break up your unplowed ground,” allow Him to work.  It might hurt as He uses circumstances and other people to break up the hard rocky places in your heart.

Yet, when He has uprooted the weeds of sin in your life and turned over soil, unsettling your ground and disturbing your status quo, “sow for yourselves righteousness . . . and seek the Lord.”  Protect your heart from those same sins taking root again by filling up that dirt with His Word and with time spent in His presence.

He is a Master Gardener.  He doesn’t just plant without tending.  Instead, He “comes and showers righteousness on you” so that you can “reap the fruit of unfailing love.”

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 © 2012 Heather King

Back to School Lessons, Part Three: Silly Mom, School Buses are for Kids

“With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall”
(Psalm 18:29).

We went out early on the first day of school, so full of excitement about the big day that we couldn’t stand in the house a moment longer.  My girls had been wearing their backpacks for a full five minutes before I finally opened the door and we stepped outside.

And there we stood, dad, mom, and three girls waiting, waiting, and waiting for the big yellow bus.

Then it came, and the older girls climbed up the steps, the doors shut, and the bus pulled away.  And I wasn’t on it with them.

Because school buses aren’t for moms.

At the end of the day, my baby and I walked down to the end of our driveway and watched for the bus to return.  After it was five minutes late, I gripped my cell phone tightly in case the school called with horrible news.

After ten minutes of being late, I just knew that my daughters had gotten lost and placed on the wrong bus.  Surely they had been shipped to some other route across the county all because I hadn’t been there to guide them.

After fifteen minutes of being late, I thought they must have gotten lost in the school hallways and they would be so terrified they wouldn’t be able to tell their name much less their teacher’s name or room number or my name or their address or phone number.  No one would ever find them.  My girls would simply be missing in the halls of the school forever  . . . all because I wasn’t there to speak for them!

But eighteen minutes after the bus was supposed to arrive, it finally stopped in front of our home.  And guess what?

The girls were on it.  They were safe and cheerful.  They hadn’t gotten lost for a moment

What’s more . . . they knew their room numbers and their teacher’s names and yes, even how to use the school bathroom.

I guess they survived without my hovering presence today.

Maybe there will be times when they struggle and feel a little lost and I will need to navigate the difficult waters of “Mom-dom,” deciding when to step in and rescue them and when to trust that we’ve trained them well enough to manage on their own.

Even God, the Perfect Father, navigates this fine parental balance between deliverance and training.

In Psalm 18, the writer declares that God:

“reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.

(Psalm 18:16-17).

God yanked the Psalmist out of the drowning waves and rescued him from overwhelming foes.

Not only that, the poet tells God, “You provide a broad path for my feet,
so that my ankles do not give way” (Psalm 18:36).

Sometimes God knows we can’t handle this foe and we need rescue.  On other days, He gives us easy circumstances, a broad path, a relaxing walk, rather than a treacherous mountain climb up a narrow rock-filled pathway because He knows our feet are tender and uncertain.

But life isn’t always easy and our journey isn’t always a Sunday stroll on a bright and cheerful day.  God doesn’t always carry us out of tough times; sometimes He asks us to rely on all the training He has poured into our hearts and minds so that we will overcome.

Thus, in that same Psalm, we see: “With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall” (Psalm 18:29).

And why can we perform these feats of wonder with God’s help?  Because He has trained us in times of peace so that we can battle through times of war.

The Psalmist says:

It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
he causes me to stand on the heights.
He trains my hands for battle;
my arms can bend a bow of bronze (Psalm 18:32-34).

God has exercised our limbs of faith and traveled with us in paths both broad and narrow.  Our feet have grown accustomed to the journey, becoming sure-footed like a deer’s and able to scale great mountainous heights.

And while God is always with us, never abandoning us for a moment, sometimes He chooses to walk alongside us through difficult circumstances rather than lifting us up and carrying us through them.

My baby likes to be carried and sometimes she stands at me feet, waving her arms at me and jumping up and down so I’ll lift her up onto my hip and hold her close.  Sometimes I scoop her up.  Other times I reach my hand for hers and tell her, “You can walk.”

Maybe God is saying that to you today. Perhaps you’ve tapped your feet impatiently at God, waiting for Him to place you on His shoulders and make all of these hard times just disappear.

Maybe you feel like it’s all just too much for you and you can’t travel a step further, not even one more moment down this path.

But instead of offering you an escape route, maybe your Father God, knowing full well what is best for you, is asking you to walk through the difficult road, at least a little farther.  He will provide all that you need, the training, the strength, the energy, the patience and perseverance.  And when He sees that your “foot is slipping,” like the Psalmist, you can say, “your unfailing love, Lord, supported me” (Psalm 94:18).

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