We’re Singing Star Wars in the Supermarket

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One of my son’s favorite shopping activities is singing the Imperial March from Star Wars while stomping down the aisles.

Dum Dum da-dum da-da-Dum Dum da-Dum

For a three-year-old, my son is remarkably good at singing this while swinging an imaginary light saber.   Even the frozen food employee is impressed.  He always stops to chat with us about the latest Star Wars movie.

This is, of course, not my son’s only grocery shopping habit.

There is also pretending to fly like an airplane and also making superhero fighting noises while acting out an epic battle.

We have rules, of course.

Star Wars singing and marching is okay.

So is superhero pretend and airplane flying .

Crawling on the nasty floor like a puppy dog, however, is not acceptable.

Also on the Not Allowed List:  Walking directly in front of the cart and stopping every two inches or so….touching everything we see….putting things in the cart without Mommy knowing….and running too far ahead or lagging too far behind outside of Mommy’s line of vision.

So, I do a lot of guiding in the store, holding his hand sometimes.  Or guiding him with my hand on his back because he’s too engrossed in his superhero game to actually walk forward.

And almost 100% of the time you can hear me narrating our adventure: “Okay, now we need to go to the cereal aisle.  We need to stop here for  a minute and look.  Alright, let’s get going, go all the way to the end of the aisle without stopping.  Let’s go faster.  Let’s slow down.”

These are my Mom-skills, my guidance techniques to keep us both on the same page in terms of purpose, direction, and timing.

We are imperfect.

Some days we ace this and I’m tempted to pat myself on the back as if I’ve got it all together and have finally (after four kids) figured this whole deal out.

But inevitably the next time we shop, we forget something, or we take forever, or I lose my temper, or there is a tantrum.

So, we go with grace.

I’m so thankful for such grace.

I’m thankful for something else, too, because I know what it’s like as a parent to lovingly guide  and direct.  I know what it’s like to be listened to and what it’s like to be ignored.

I know what it’s like to “know best….” and to understand the grand scheme of things:  the meal plan, the budget, the true needs versus the cavernous wants.

Maybe these weekly shopping excursions are a little hint of God’s heart for us.

He knows the big plan:  the layout of the store, the timing, the provision, the needs.

Sometimes He says, “no,” even when we really want to hear “yes.”  Sometimes he hurries us past aisles where we want to linger.  Sometimes he slows us down for the opportunity to consider.

Sometimes He lets us dance in the aisles and sing our hearts out right there in the middle of the bread because He’s so crazy about us and we bring him such joy.

But I can be so wayward.

I can try to rush ahead one day and drag my feet the next.  I can try to sneak things into the cart and perhaps I even throw a tantrum every once in a while.

I’ve been reading in Exodus about Israel’s long and winding trek through the wilderness, and how God guided them every step of the way, providing for their needs with manna and quail even when they longed for the food in Egypt.

What would have happened if the Israelites had pushed on ahead of the cloud that God used to guide them by day?   What if they guessed at God’s potential direction, balked at His delays, and set out on their own?

What if I do the same, trusting in my own wisdom and strength rather than in God’s?

We are all simply lost without Him.

So I’m trying to trust Him and trust His heart, even when there are diversions and delays, even when there are annoyances and “no’s” and restrictions.

In Exodus, God actually gives Israel a glimpse into His heart:

 I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you. 30 Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land.  Exodus 23:29-30.

Conquering the Promised Land wouldn’t be some quick and painless affair, which is probably what they wanted.

But God’s purpose was for their protection.  His timing was for their good.

He promises us this, as well:

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
    I will advise you and watch over you (Psalm 32:8 NLT).

Recalibrating the Measure

I had been wooed by the digital display and the sleek design, but I should have stuck with the tried and true older model.

The new scale promised to be scientifically accurate because of some high-quality triple sensory design. It could track the weight gain and loss of two different people by storing the weigh-in results in its memory.

So I brought it home from the store, opened the package, read the instructions, dropped it down on the floor and stepped on. Then I scowled.

This didn’t seem right.

I tried again a few days later and then after a few more days, I tried again.

According to this handy dandy super scale, I was gaining about a pound a day despite snacks of yogurt and granola, exercise sessions and water.

I could rail about the injustice of the world or blame the metabolism shifts in my 30s, but how could I argue with such a scientifically accurate device?

Finally, I carried out two scales from the cabinet: The old one with the tiny arrow that scalescrolled through the numbers and eventually landed on a miniature line and the new one with the flashing white numbers against a black display.

They were different.  A lot different.  I pushed the digital one around a bit and stepped on and off a few times.

I’d been using a faulty measure.

What else am I using as a faulty basis for my thoughts and emotions, my plans, my faith?

A.W. Tozer wrote: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

This, after all, is our foundation, our measure by which we weigh the world, and the filter through which we understand our circumstances.

But it’s not just what we think that matters, certainly not what we say.  We can confess:

I believe God is faithful.
I believe God can provide.
I believe God forgives me.
I believe God is all-powerful.
I believe God is with me.
I believe God will never abandon me.

All that sounds good and right.  We say what we’re supposed to say.  Sing the words we’re supposed to sing.

We might even think we mean it.

But sometimes we’re really looking at the world through circumstances and emotions.  Slowly, without changing what we’re saying, we’ve still changed what we believe.

The Israelites wandering around the wilderness outside of Egypt professed belief in the God who had led them out of slavery.

When Pharaoh’s army chased them to the edge of the Red Sea, however, they complained: ”Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?” (Exodus 14:11).

When they realized they could no longer shop at the Egyptian grocery stores, they whined:  “you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death” (Exodus 16:3).

And when the desert diet proved restrictive, they remembered: “The fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic” (Numbers 11:5).

They said they believed in God and His miraculous power, but, as Kelly Minter writes in her study on Nehemiah:

“whenever the Israelites faced difficulty in the desert they chose to believe something false about God.  Three of the biggies were that he had abandoned them, withheld from them, or wouldn’t meet their needs” (p. 125).

It is Nehemiah’s prayer, centuries later, that reminds the people of the truth:

You did not abandon them in the wilderness
because of Your great compassion….

You did not withhold Your manna from their mouths,
and You gave them water for their thirst.

You provided for them in the wilderness 40 years
and they lacked nothing (Nehemiah 9:19-21).

But in the middle of the wilderness, with Egypt behind them and the unknown ahead, without a meal plan or a guaranteed buffet, Israel believed false things about God.

And I get that.

It’s hard to see the truth when our eyes are shut tight to the wonder of God or our bad attitude is crowding out the glory from our field of vision.

We’ve decided we’re stuck.
We’ve determined to feel unhappy.
We’ve felt cheated and gypped out of what we really want.

So we just rack up more and more circumstantial evidence, cementing what we feel.

And we believe it.  God can’t use this situation.  God abandoned me here.  God is withholding from me.  God can’t rescue, save or provide.  God doesn’t know what He’s doing.

That’s false evidence, a faulty measure, a shaky foundation.

Today, let’s pray for God’s eye-opening grace, for His perspective, for a reminder of His goodness, for revelations of truth.  Just like Nehemiah did, let’s recount the goodness of God rather than letting our dissatisfaction or hurt determine what we see and what we believe.

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

Two steps forward and two steps back (or so it seems)

This was an unfortunate setback.

A few weeks ago, my husband gently suggested that it may be time for a serious attempt at potty training my two-year-old.

Now, to understand how I felt about this I first have to tell you potty training my two older girls was no easy task.  In fact, it’s fair to say that I’ve never felt as much like a failure in my life as when I was pleading with a toddler just to sit on the potty chair.

I laid awake at night designing reward charts and incentive plans.
I prayed for help from Almighty God so that my kids would be ready for preschool.
I bought books, movies, stickers, M&Ms, toys, and more to bribe them into success.
I avoided all moms who proudly announced their genius 18-month old had been perfectly trained with absolutely no effort in all of a day.

But my husband is a good husband and I’m a good wife.  So, when he asked me to start potty training my toddler, I plunged into what I was sure would be months and months of misery, stress and clean-up.

I pulled out the trusty movie, Potty Power.  I explained underwear to my daughter.  Every 15 minutes, I picked her up and carried her to the bathroom.

And a miracle happened.  A real live, genuine miracle of God.

She figured it out.  She wanted to learn.  She graduated to underwear in a matter of days.  I bet God never had anyone thank Him so much for help potty training her child.

And then.

Then there was the setback.  One week of sickness kicked my baby girl back into Pull-Ups and made her absolutely terrified of a trip to the bathroom.  Now my sanity is loosely held together by a can of Resolve and a bottle of Febreze.

I was discouraged.  She was scared and confused.  We’re baby-stepping our way forward, hoping to regain lost ground.

Have you ever encountered a setback that left you dazed, uncertain, and full of fear?

Perhaps you stepped out in obedience to what you believed was God’s call, but circumstances shifted, obstacles arose, and you’re not reaching the goal.  Perhaps you’ve even begun to question whether you heard God clearly and made the right decision in the first place.

Sometimes God’s plan just doesn’t make sense to us.

For the Israelites leaving slavery in Egypt, the most logical route to the Promised Land was straight along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.  After a few battles with the Philistines, the Isrealites thought they’d march right into Canaan after no more than a month-long journey.

God had other plans.  Exodus 13:17 tells us: “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, ‘Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.'”

Sometimes God takes us the long way around for our own benefit.  In her book One in a Million, Prisicllar Shirer writes that “the wilderness is often safer than the alternative” (p 73).  God chose the wilderness for His people.  Maybe He’s chosen it for you, as well, for your protection and personal growth.

Even after the Israelites followed the pillars of cloud and fire in the direction God had chosen to take them, there were still setbacks.  In Exodus 14:2, God said, “Tell the people of Israel to turn back.”

Turn back?

God led them one way only to turn them around and march them off in a different direction?  Did it seem like God had momentarily lost His compass in the desert?

And yet, this turning back placed the Israelites on the banks of the Red Sea and the only way across now was through His miraculous deliverance.

He turned them around so that He could save them.

So, what do we do as we make confusing desert tracks in the wilderness in our efforts to follow God’s lead?

We could give up.  We could question our listening skills.  We could doubt God’s leadership.  We could stomp off and follow our own course.

Or we could remain focused on our goal and the passion God has placed in our hearts.  That’s the only way the Israelites made it to the Promised Land.  It’s the only way we’ll receive all that God has promised us.

It’s also the only way Nehemiah saw the walls of Jerusalem rebuilt.  Kelly Minter in her book Nehemiah: A Heart That Can Break, writes:

“After verbal assaults, physical threats, discouraged laborers, abuses of power and economic distress, Nehemiah never diverted his focus from the wall.  The process may have been slowed and altered as a result of enemies and wayward citizens, but the goal never changed.”

In fact, Nehemiah himself writes, “I also persevered in the work on this wall” (Nehemiah 5:16, ESV).

He continued to build despite threats, fear, confusion, discouragement, distractions and disappointments.  He continued to build despite setbacks.   He never stopped placing brick on top of brick on top of brick in obedience to God.

What has God asked you to build?  Choose today to place another brick on this wall instead of giving up because of obstacles and disappointments.  Choose to “persevere in the work on this wall.”

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

Devotions from My Garden: Tomato Plant Prayers

 

Last week, my daughters and I spent a picture-perfect day outside planting in the garden.  As I pushed the dirt around each  of our tomato plants, I whispered a little prayer for God to bless it and let it grow strong and healthy to produce much fruit and to be protected from weather and pests (those nasty huge green worms that appear every year) and also to be protected from my ineptitude (I’m no expert gardener).

My daughter giggled at me.  “Why are you praying over a tomato plant, mom?”

I stopped to think.  Why was I praying over a tomato plant?  Earlier that very day, I had prayed for the names listed in my prayer journal.  For job decisions.  For financial help.  For needed housing.  For strength while caregiving.  For a broken marriage.  For children growing up with instability.  For a small girl with cancer.

Now, here I was just hours later, asking the God of the Universe to care about my tiny garden.  Did it seem presumptuous of me, selfish perhaps to think that the small things that mattered to me, mattered to God, as well?

Yet, I looked up into my daughter’s face and said, “God cares about us.  He cares about every little thing, so it’s okay for us to pray about all that is on our mind and heart, not just the big stuff.”

I believe that.  Sometimes we see God as too wrapped up in world affairs, global weather patterns, and hospital rooms to have time for the daily thoughts and concerns we face each day.  Somehow we think we’d just be wasting his time, taking His attention from those who really need His intervention if we prayed about “silly” little things.

Satan has great success defeating the prayer lives of Christians by making prayer seem so complicated.

He tells us prayer is hard and it has to be done a certain way and for a certain length of time.
He tells us we don’t pray as well as other Christians we know.  He tells us we are lacking and we fall short.
He tells us God doesn’t care about our concerns and needs because they are too insignificant for God’s notice.

So, with all of that pressure and the feeling that we simply can’t measure up, we sometimes don’t pray at all.

And yet, Scripture tells us to “pray continually” (1 Thes. 5:17).  It’s not that we need to quit our jobs and devote ourselves to on-our-knees intercession all day, every day.  It’s that our every thought and emotion can be turned over to God in prayer, living in continual conversation with a listening and caring God.

I am reminded that the Psalmist told me to “cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken” (Psalm 55:22) and Peter told us to “cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).  Cast all my anxiety—-not just the big life-altering problems, but everything that puzzles my heart and occupies my thoughts.

In a world where we are constantly reminded of need and hurt, when wars and revolutions are started everyday, when tornadoes and tsunamis wipe out homes and countries, when our email boxes fill up with prayer requests for the homeless and the sick, it may seem so foolish to lay at God’s feet the little things like tomato plants.

And yet, Isaiah 63:9 says, “In all their distress, He too was distressed, and the angel of His presence saved them.  In His love and mercy He redeemed them; He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.”

Isaiah here is writing about how God carried Israel in the past.  During all those days in the wilderness between Egypt and Canaan He delivered them from Pharaoh’s mighty army, He carried them across the Red Sea on dry ground, He gave them the Ten Commandments, but He also made sure they had food and water to drink and led them to an oasis to refresh them when they were weary.  He cared about every event and every need—big or small—that mattered to them.

About a week after I had knelt in the dirt to pray over my tomato plant, my daughter and I sat next to each other talking about a birthday party she was going to the next day.  I looked up the directions on the computer and realized that this family lived exactly in the middle of the hardest hit area of tornado damage from the storms a week before.

My daughter announced, “Well, my friend says that she could hear the storm and it went right by her, but they were okay.  I guess God knew she was having a birthday party and didn’t want it to be ruined by her house being broken.”

Sweet innocent faith!  I had told her that God cares about every little thing, and she believed it.  If He cares about tomato plants, why not a birthday party?  And why not the worries on your mind?  Your decisions, your financial needs, your relationship problems, your job choices, your shopping list, your schedule for the day, whether your kids behave in the store (I have prayed that prayer many times).

Isn’t it one of those miraculous aspects of God’s nature that He cares about the big and small, the world events and the personal concerns, the global crises and the daily struggles?

More Devotions from My Garden:

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