What I Said and What I Was Thinking

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Matthew 7:1-2)

She was crying and telling me she felt like a total flake.  Life had been crazy, filled with mistakes and missed appointments, misplaced papers, forgotten promises, everything lost and mixed up and wrong.

I remember being partially sympathetic and somewhat compassionate, outwardly consoling her and sharing words of encouragement as other shoppers pushed their way past our carts.

But inside, in the secret places of my mind and heart, that compassion wasn’t genuine.  It was hollow pat-her-on-the-back kind of friendship–the kind that is sorry she had a bad week, but fell short of true understanding or free-flowing grace.

in fact, the all-business side of me was passing unspoken judgment.

Forgetting, missing, losing, making mistakes? It didn’t sound like an attack from Satan to me.  It sounded more like a too-busy schedule and an absent organizational system.  Somehow I thought a few files and a day planner could save the day.

Two weeks later, I was crying at my kitchen table.  It had been a week of misplaced papers and missing items—not little insignificant things—BIG things, like legal documents and Department of Motor Vehicle paperwork.

For someone generally in control and on top of things, the week had been a devastatingly humbling reminder of just how flaky I can be.

An attack from Satan?  Suddenly it seemed possible.  Or even a tool God was using to challenge my heart and burn away the hidden places of self-condemnation and then smother the flames with His unconditional love and grace.

We so quickly stumble into a world of silent judgment, assessing, evaluating, and categorizing the people around us.

The frazzled-looking momma with the crying baby in Wal-Mart.
The parents whose teenager disappeared from church.
The couple who met with the divorce lawyers last week.
The husband and wife holding the bankruptcy paperwork.
The family with the nice new car and large house.
Those who homeschool (or don’t).
Those who have large families (or small).
The mom who commutes every day to work (and the one who doesn’t.)
The highly fashionable woman next to you in church, with perfectly polished nails, a size 4 waist, and a wardrobe that looks like it costs more than your house (or the one in jeans and a t-shirt).

And maybe we think we’re justified, that our own success in these areas qualifies us for positions of authority.  Or maybe we’ve memorized a list of Bible verses that prove our position.  As long as we’re quiet about it, after all, there seems little harm.  It’s only in our heart, only our own private thoughts of criticism.

Sure it might spill over occasionally into snarky remarks and private jibes among our like-minded friends, but mostly we control the collateral damage.

Yet, isn’t that the picture of the pharisees in Luke 5, solemnly and silently sitting off on their own, overlooking Jesus’ ministry and remaining stoically untouched by His compassionate healing?

Scripture tells us: “One day Jesus was teaching and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there” (Luke 5:17).

They had front row seats, a privileged view of the hurting crowd and the four friends carrying a man on a mat and lowering him down through the ceiling.  Jesus saw the faith of the friends, their determination and selflessness.  He saw the paralyzed man, so dependent on others even to carry him to the feet of the Savior.

And Jesus healed him by saying, “Friend, your sins are forgiven” (Luke 5:20).

Maybe the crowd marveled at the miracle.  Perhaps the man who had been confined to a mat danced a jig and hugged his faithful friends.

Others remained unmoved:

The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Luke 5:21).

It likely seemed safe, passing silent thoughts of judgment.  They were, after all, just “thinking to themselves.”  They didn’t hop up on a soapbox or try to steal the show.  They didn’t argue with the crowd or publicly condemn the healed or the Healer.

It was just an internal dialogue, a private moment of judgment and condemnation.

But, “Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, ‘Why are you thinking these things in your hearts?‘” (Luke 5:22).

Even our most secretive judgments of others have an audience—Jesus Himself.   That’s why Beth Moore, in her book, Jesus, the One and Only, asks: “How do I silently judge?”  Because judgment that doesn’t appear on protest signs or Facebook posts or Twitter feeds or in pulpits is still judgment.

The truth is I’m desperately in need of the grace Christ has poured out on me, and if I need that kind of grace, then I need to show that kind of grace: unhindered, unqualified, unmarred by an undercurrent of criticism and condescension.  Just grace.  Beautiful, pure, deep down honest grace.

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: The Competitive Edge

Several of my college professors sauntered into class on the first day of the semester, dropped their oversized literature textbooks onto their desks and announced, “If you expect to get an ‘A’ in this class, you can forget it.  I don’t give ‘A’s.’  At best, most of you will get a ‘C’ out of me.”

I took that as a personal challenge.

In fact, my irrationally competitive spirit can sometimes be a good thing.  Sometimes we accomplish more because of the adrenaline of the challenge, the race, and the competition.  That usually works for me.

And yet sometimes it’s a terrible addiction.  Like when you’re compelled to do the best, be the best, be the fastest, the first, the most impressive, and the most accomplished—even when it really doesn’t matter.

Or maybe one day you “fail” or come in second or make a mistake.

Or when you’re so focused on lifting yourself up, that you fail to come alongside others and give them a boost when they need it.

Or like when you’re a mom and you’re telling your child all the time, “You don’t have to be the first, the smartest or the best.  You just need to try your hardest and use the gifts God gave you to be who He called you to be. And I love you always.”

But deep down you want them to totally leave other kids in the dust.  Then your children start suspecting that when you tell them you love them and you’re proud of them, really there are some conditions attached.  Maybe they know that the deep-down hidden message in all this is to “Achieve.”

Or like when it’s time to throw a birthday party or be the classroom mom and an ordinary cupcake isn’t good enough.  You have to personally bake and decorate the kind of product that could land you on Cupcake Wars.  Your personal life goal is for all the other kids to say, “I wish my mom were as cool, fun, creative, and wonderful as you are.” (Throw in “beautiful” for good measure.)

Yes, that competition trap is a doozy.

All week long, I’ve been praying about killing the competition between my kids, encouraging them to be each others greatest cheerleaders instead of ultimate rivals.

Then I started thinking maybe my own drive for competition could use some killing.

In fact, maybe we all need the reminder in the body of Christ to unite for one purpose—the glory of God and the truth of the Gospel—rather than competing for attention, success, praise, Twitter followers, Facebook fans, and number of people in the seats.

Here’s a verse I’m meditating on all this week, to remind me that ultimately all this striving matters very little and while it might spur you on to earn good grades or throw the best birthday parties, Christ would rather see us cheerleading than competing.

Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4 HCSB).

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.  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

Attack of the Mutant Christmas Lists

Their Christmas lists keep growing.

I thought we had it all settled.  In fact, being the slightly neurotic Type-A mom that I am, I turned my daughters’ wish lists into a color-coordinated spreadsheet in Excel that tracks what the girls want, how that corresponds to what her sisters are getting, and what store has the best prices for said item.

Then I’ve established a four-month shopping program charting which presents I can afford to buy during each of the months until Christmas.

Believe it or not, I love this.  I enjoy gift-giving, especially to my children.  I don’t just jot their lists down, I listen to their interests and likes and spontaneous desires for months.  In fact, I begin writing down possible gift ideas on my day planner in June.

Yes, June.

And I mentally categorize their verbal requests into:

A: That’s a great idea!  I wonder where I can get that?
B:  Hmm. . . I’ll consider this one, but I may need to change my plans for other gifts.
C. Maybe not for Christmas; maybe for a birthday.
D. Ain’t gonna happen, honey.

That last category is for all those gifts that cost more than anything else we own in our home or toys that will likely break after the first use or sit dusty and forlorn on the shelves the week after Christmas.  It’s for duplicates of things they already have (how many Pillow Pets does a child need?) and for gifts that just seem downright silly to me.

But still the requests come in.  Like video games and Nintendo DS systems and the iPod touches and Kindles that apparently every other first and second grader in our town owns.

Thanks to birthday parties, friends, and the ever-constant barrage of commercials, my children have mutant Christmas lists.

While it seems so childishly foolish to long for novelty slippers or a new video game, don’t we often want what this world offers?

Perhaps it’s material things that constitute our wish list or physical beauty or instant gratification.

Or maybe our heart’s desires are truly Godly things, but we want them on our terms, under our control, in our timing . . . ultimately looking for fulfillment in them rather than God alone.

…Like ministering because we’re dependent on praise and attention.  Or working and serving because we’re addicted to success and accomplishments..

Or the ever-alluring need to be in Control.

And the oh-so-tempting rush of feeling needed and useful.

These aren’t sticks and stones idols that sit on the shelves of our hearts, so obvious and easily tossed out with the garbage.

No, Tim Keller writes that, put simply, idolatry is “taking a good thing and making it an ultimate thing.”

So even the best, most honorable desires of our heart might turn out to be idols leading us astray—all because we’re dependent on ministry for our value or friendships for our worth or anything other than God alone for our identity and hope.

Kelly Minter writes, “It is so essential that the only true and wise God be exalted, not only above all religious gods, but over all the things we put in place of Him” (No Other gods: Confronting Our Modern Day Idols).

But sometimes we just don’t know what’s lurking in these hearts of ours, not until God takes an idol away or asks us to hand it over.  It’s then we start feeling the pangs of withdrawal and realize just how addicted we really were.

Like when He tells us a busyness addict to rest.
Or a success addict to step down.
Or an approval addict to handle criticism.
Or a relationship addict to walk alone for a time.
Or a control addict to strap in for a wild ride of His design and not their own.

If we were Abraham, a wealthy landowner with status and connections, and God told us to leave and go, would we?

And if we went, would we go willingly and cheerfully, or would we whine and complain and create wish lists along the way to refill the voids?

Abraham not only trusted God and obeyed, but he managed to keep his eyes set on eternal things.  He didn’t look for fulfillment here and now or even in good things that just weren’t God things.

Scripture tells us:

“For he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.  For he was looking forward to the city with foundations whose architect and builder is God”  (Heb 11:9-10).

What tent is God asking you to dwell in?  What has He asked you to lay aside?

Set your eyes on eternity.  Hand over the keys to your house, carry your tent on your back, and trust God to plan and build a city with a permanent home for you there.  He is, after all, all we need.

Check out these great resources all about this:

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