Returning to Bethel

I heard rumblings from the laundry room several times that morning and wasn’t overly suspicious.  We have these kittens, you see.

The dryer wasn’t on and I knew the dryer door was opened, so I wasn’t afraid, just mildly amused that they must have been wrestling (again) and bumping up against furniture and appliances (again).

But it wasn’t the kittens.  It was my son, who apparently was awake and moving without me knowing.  He had tossed through the clothes upstairs in his dresser and couldn’t find his new favorite shirt.  So, he’d slipped down the stairs unnoticed, snuck into the laundry room and was hunting through the clean clothes in the dryer.

When that failed, he headed back upstairs again and finally started crying in rage.  That’s when I ran upstairs to find him standing in a mound of clean clothes that did not include the shirt he wanted.

I had put his shirt in the wash when I started laundry around 7:30 that morning.  It was soaking wet and still spinning around in soapy water.

It was a rough start to the day.  Sometimes you can just roll with the punches and sometimes your favorite shirt is in the washing machine and you just can’t handle that kind of disappointment.

The day improved, of course.  He shook off the disappointment eventually and later the treasured shirt came out of the dryer, not just clean but warm and cozy, too.

I’m a “favorites” kind of person also.  I have favorite socks , sweaters, flavors of tea and mugs to drink my tea in. I re-read favorite books (five and six times),I order favorite meals from restaurants, and listen repeatedly to favorite songs in my car.

When I have to do hard things (like go to the dentist), I deck myself out in cozy socks, comfy shoes, well-worn jeans, and my fuzziest jacket.

Sometimes we just need to go back to what we know and some days are simply better with your favorite shirt.

I’ve been reading  about Abraham’s journeys recently and treasuring the reminder that he “traveled in stages.”  He didn’t bolt from calling to fulfillment, from vision to completion, or from home to the Promised Land overnight.

This was a process, a long step-by-step movement from one place of faith to the next place of faith and then onward again.

Abraham’s journey looked like this:   Arrive at a new place, encounter the Lord, receive God’s  promise, and build an altar.

He responded to the Lord in every place and every season with sacrificial obedience and worship.

May this be me.

In hard places and comfy places, in every season, in each situation my response should be an altar:  A commitment.  A laying down.  An act of sacrifice.  A devotion to worship.

So I do this: I seek out mementos and build memorials, choose a Scripture, write a prayer, repeat a song.  I set my heart on re-dedication and re-commitment to follow the Lord wherever He calls me to go.

Here’s something else I see about Abraham, though–he returns.

In Genesis 12, it says:

The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord who had appeared to him. From there he moved on to the hill country east of Bethel and pitched his tent…. He built an altar to the Lord there, and he called on the name of the LordThen Abram journeyed by stages to the Negev (Genesis 12:7-9 CSB). 

From there, Abraham encountered some difficulties.

There was a famine, so he left the land of Promise and headed to Egypt.  He was afraid. He lied to Pharaoh about Sarai and said she was his sister.  After Egypt,  Abraham is plagued with family drama.  Lot’s servants and Abraham’s servants couldn’t work together anymore, so they separated.

So much had happened since Bethel:  fear, sin, wandering,  strife, separation.

That’s when Abraham goes back:

He went by stages from the Negev to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had formerly been, to the site where he had built the altar. And Abram called on the name of the Lord there (Genesis 13:3-4 CSB). 

Maybe sometimes a favorite mug with my favorite tea is a pick-me-up for a dreary day….but also a favorite verse, devotional, worship song, prayer practice, or spiritual discipline helps to pull my heart back to the Lord.

It’s because I wander or get lost or grow weary.  I certainly am forgetful.  I sin.

So I travel back to my “Bethel,” the place where I’ve encountered the Lord.  And I seek Him there again.  I call on His name once more.

 

How could I forget?

I am a postcard hunter.

My kids tease me about this and when I head into the gift shop at the art museum, they whine about my postcard search.  I show them what I’ve collected–one postcard for each of us, specially matched to our own interests.  Like the  Egyptian mummy cat for  my daughter who loves cats and the African giraffe sculpture for my son (giraffes are his favorite).

On our trip to Wisconsin, I search for four days for postcards only to finally track down a nearly hidden rack of them in the Minneapolis airport.

I’m pleased.  My kids are indifferent at best.  Postcards.  They don’t get the point or the value.

But for one  thing, I’m the one with the money and few souvenirs are as inexpensive as a postcard.

Plus, I have  a long history  of postcard memories.  I have some from my sixth  grade class trip to  Amish country in Pennsylvania and from the time I flew to visit my grandparents in Texas when I was  12.

I can flip through the postcards and remember  trips to  amusement parks and caverns and historical  sites and  museums. Those  help  me remember where I’ve been.

And I have  the collection of postcards others sent  to me.  Those  help me remember the people I’ve loved.

I have postcards  from  my dad, sent as he traveled with the military bands when I was a girl, and postcards from my grandmother on her trip to St. Petersburg, and even postcards from my great-grandmother  on her  travels in the 1950s.   They all  passed away so long ago,  and yet here in my collection I have their handwritten notes and a connection to their travels.

Maybe my kids don’t  really get postcards because they think  they’ll  remember.

But I know how often we forget.

How forgetful I can be.  Life pushes me faster and faster, rushing through this day and the next, and even those moments you most expect to remember blur into the fog of it all.

Memory isn’t passive, not the way we expect it to be.  No, remembrance is an active discipline, a choosing not to forget despite our humanness, our busyness, our moving on.

We think we’ll remember the miracles, the accounts of how God delivered us, the times He carried us right out of the pit, the stand-still encounters with God when it seemed like He cut through all the noise of this world and the cacophony of our own emotions and He spoke to us, God to person, one clear voice cutting through it all with a message we’ll never forget.

Yet, we forget it after all.

Psalm 78 shows how fickle remembrance can be.  Israel strayed from God.   He disciplined them.  Then:

They remembered that God was their rock,
the Most High God, their Redeemer  (verse 35 CBS).  

So,  they repented and returned.  He extended  grace and they followed closely for  a while,  until:

They did not remember his power shown
on the day he redeemed them from the foe (verse 42). 

They remembered and then they didn’t.

Asaph the Psalmist relays all the details of God’s miraculous provision,  the plagues in Egypt manna and water,  wilderness direction, victories  in the Promised  Land.

Still, they forgot all  that God had done. .

Could this be me?

Could forgetfulness  in my own heart lead not just  to apathy,  but to  waywardness?   And not just that, but to worry?  If  I forget what God has  done, I also forget all  that God  can do.

And He is faithful. He is so  faithful.  He is generous and gracious.  He is compassionate.  It’s not just that He provided, but HOW He provided that  I want to treasure and honor.

It’s been a year almost since we moved into our new home and people still  ask me, “How do you like your new house?”

I  tell  them the same thing all the time.  How I  drive into our neighborhood and round this one curve in the drive back to our home.  As I  do, I  see our house come into view and I breathe a  prayer of thanks.

It has been a year.  I am still thankful.  I keep breathing out that prayer of thanks because I do not want to forget.

And when I need new help  and new provision, , when there is trouble, when I am struggling, I remember the goodness of the Lord and how I celebrate every time I drive into this neighborhood.

We think we’ll  remember,  but how often we forget.

So we choose to remember.  We choose to  collect these postcards  of faith.  We choose to  commit over and over again to  gratitude and praise.  We choose to  give testimony to ourselves and to others:  Come hear what God has done.   Come know who our God is.

Bible Verses about Worship at Christmas

  • Isaiah 9:6-7 ESV
    For to us a child is born,
        to us a son is given;
    and the government shall be upon[d] his shoulder,
        and his name shall be called[e]
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
        Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
    Of the increase of his government and of peace
        there will be no end,
    on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
        to establish it and to uphold it
    with justice and with righteousness
        from this time forth and forevermore.
    The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
  • Matthew 2:10-11 ESV
    When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
  • Luke 1:44 ESV
     For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.
  • Luke 1:46-55 ESV
    Mary’s Song of Praise: The Magnificat
    46 And Mary said,
    “My soul magnifies the Lord,
    47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
    48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
    49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
    50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
    51 He has shown strength with his arm
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
    52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
    53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.-
    54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
    55 as he spoke to our fathers,
    to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
  • Luke 2:13-14 ESV
    And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
    14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
  • Luke 2:20 ESV
    And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
  • Luke 2:38 ESV
     And coming up at that very hour she (Anna) began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

This, dear one, is for you

I thought the note was for some other mom.

Years ago, my daughter toted a note home from preschool.  Now that they had all learned their phone numbers, they were working on their address.  Could we please practice at home?

I reviewed our address with my four-year-old until she could rattle it off like a pro.

At the end of the month, we received a new note.  They’ll be studying spring,  plants, and working on their spring program and, by the way, some kids still didn’t know their address….could we please practice with them at home?

I asked my daughter to say her address.

She said it.

I nodded my head approvingly.

This note must be for some other mom.

In April, notes came home every few weeks…about spring break and final plans for the year and what they were learning now and preparations for Easter parties and the spring program and oh, one more thing, could the children who still didn’t know their addresses please make sure they learned them?

Tsk, tsk, tsk.  Some parents!  You know?

But then in May, I sat at the tiny table with my body squeezed into a preschooler-sized blue plastic chair and had a conference with my daughter’s teacher.  She hands me the assessment sheet with checkmarks everywhere.  Your child can do all of this….but she can’t say her address.

I’m sorry.  What?

Apparently, that note had been for me all along.  I called my daughter over to the table and she recited her address flawlessly in just over a second and then ran off to play.

I guess all along they’d been asking my daughter if she could say her address and she just told them, ‘no.’

So, the notes home could have had my name written all over them.  They were meant for me!  And I had moseyed along on my oblivious way thinking surely my child had gotten her little box checked off.

Sometimes, we need notes and faith and life to be monogrammed with our initials before we realize it’s for us.

We can look at the Bible, we can see what God did and what He’s doing and we can think He’s wonderfully compassionate, powerful and yet full of mercy, for the world and for everyone else in the world.

But then it gets personal.

The disciples tagged along after Jesus as He healed the crowds. Lepers and the lame, the demon-possessed and those wrecked with pain came to Him for rescue and He performed the miracles.

My Bible marks the book of Matthew with newspaper headlines:  Jesus Heals The Sick.  Jesus Heals Many.  Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand.

Jesus changed lives for lots of people.

But then it got personal for the 12 rag-tag followers.

When Jesus went off to pray, He sent them on ahead to cross the lake on their own.  In the middle of the night, he came out to them, walking on the water.

Peter jumped out of the boat and took steps out onto the sea….and then sank when he saw the wind and felt afraid.

But as soon as Jesus lifted Peter up and they slipped into the boat, the wind ceased.  The storm calmed.  The sea rested.

Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:33).

Then…they worshiped.

Max Lucado writes:

They had never, as a group, done that before.  Never…….You won’t find them worshiping when he heals the leper.  Forgives the adulteress.  Preaches to the masses.  They were willing to follow.  Willing to leave family  Willing to cast out demons.  Willing to be in the army.  But only after the incident on the sea did they worship him.  Why?  Simple.  This time they were the ones who were saved.”  (In the Eye of the Storm)

FAITH HAS TO BE PERSONAL AND INTIMATE.

Sometimes, I confess it, I slip into the humdrum and the mundane and the complacency of religion.

But then God rescues me from the storm.  He comes close and draws near.  He whispers my name.

This is for you.

Not just everyone else.  Not just other moms, other wives, other women.

Not just for the whole world.  Not just for the crowd.

This, dear one, is for you.

And the worship that I’d been offering by rote and by habit transforms into heartfelt praise and all-out abandon.

Because, after all, I am the one who is saved.

Originally published February 25, 2015

So we worship with abandon

psalm 150

I can hear my son dancing in his carseat as I drive the minivan around town.

He dances with a particular sense of abandon, throwing his whole body into his head-banging, side to side, forward and back.   He snaps his elbows out and pulls his hands to his chest and then kicks his feet.

When he breaks into dancing at home, he does a combination of skipping/leaping/running in circles that is breathlessly exciting.

He is into it.

I know he’s dancing wildly back there in the minivan (as wildly as one can dance when strapped into a 5-point harness car seat), so I pull down my rear-view mirror for a moment to see what he’s doing.

He immediately freezes in mid-boogie and looks away trying not to catch my gaze.

All of that joyful movement stops in an instant and gives way to bashful embarrassment.

My son is a secret dancer.

Even though I never criticize him for it, he has this innate pulling back, an automatic embarrassment that we never overcome no matter how many times I tell him: “It’s okay to dance.”

I wonder if we also are secret-dancers, secret-worshipers, holding back, hiding away, not wanting to look too wild or too ‘into it.’

Like Nicodemus, maybe we clothe our time with Jesus in darkness and privacy.

Even among other Christians, we might pull back.  Don’t get too serious.  Don’t worship too passionately.  Don’t change your priorities too much.  Don’t talk about God too often.  Don’t let the Bible actually change you.

Jesus has a way, though, of busting through all of the layers of propriety and face-saving, people-pleasing, status-quo-following.

No matter how hard we may try at times to stuff our faith into acceptable packages of behavior, God can stir us to abandon.

In Luke 7, Jesus watched as a widow followed the casket of her only son while wailing with sorrow.  Seeing her pain, Jesus responded with compassion, touched the coffin and commanded that her precious son rise up from the dead.

The son sat up and started talking.

We’re told that “they were all filled with awe and praised God.  ‘A great prophet has appeared among us,’ they said. ‘God has come to help his people.’ This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country (Luke 7:16-17 NIV).

The Message describes the scene:

They all realized they were in a place of holy mystery, that God was at work among them. They were quietly worshipful—and then noisily grateful, calling out among themselves, “God is back, looking to the needs of his people!” The news of Jesus spread all through the country (Luke 7:16-17 MSG).

God’s presence, always with us, should awaken the sense that we’re in a “place of holy mystery.”  Yes, God is at work here and we are amazed!

We may begin ‘quietly worshipful,’ but then we can’t hold it in!  We praise God!  We are ‘noisily grateful!”  We tell everyone what Jesus has done.

Just like these worshipers, we shout: “Praise God, He is at work among us!  Praise God, I’ve seen His hand and He’s real, our God is real!!  Praise God, He has not abandoned us, but He is looking after the needs of His people!!”

We all have these moments when we can choose to dance and sing about all that God has done or remain hidden in the shadows as night-time Jesus-seekers too frightened of popular opinion for all-out discipleship.

This was Nicodemus’s choice. He came in the darkness to ask Jesus just what being “born again” really meant.

But later, after Jesus died,  it wasn’t the disciples or the women at the cross who arranged for his burial.

Instead, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for Jesus’ body.  He was “a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders” (John 19:38).

And who was with him?  None other than Nicodemus, who brought about 75 pounds of lotions and spices to anoint Jesus’ body.  Together, they wrapped their Savior with linen and placed him in a garden tomb (John 19:38-42).

Two secret worshipers, frightened of others’ opinions, ashamed to go public with their faith, now honored Jesus with reverent awe and unhidden love.

Suddenly, religious position, public opinion, and power didn’t matter very much.

Jesus had abandoned all for them, so they worshiped with abandon.

Jesus abandoned everything for us also, so we can also worship with abandon!

God is with us!  Jesus is risen!  He is real!  He is at work among us!

 

 

Am I Asking Jesus to Leave?

She said he was afraid.

A small team from our church took VBS on the go this year, sharing the lessons, songs and games with kids in the community.prayerpresence

One of the ladies shared with us this past Sunday what that mission to area children was like.

She tells how on the last day, those little ones gathered around the teacher for the Bible story about Paul.

He was such a Bad Guy, she told them.

She told all about his past, all those mean things he did to Christians.

But then she told how he met Jesus and she read from the start of his letters to the churches, how he said the same thing over and over and over again:

“I, Paul, a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ…..”

This little boy, cuddled next to another leader, winced and sucked in his breath every single time she said it.

The Lord Jesus Christ

He’d only ever heard those words as cursing in anger and bursts of outrage in his home.

My husband puts the hurt into words, how this little boy has a “Pavlovian fear response to the name of the only One who could ever save him.”

Peter shared the truth:

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12 NIV).

We sit in that comfy sanctuary in the middle of a tiny town in rural Virginia and our hearts break because missions starts right here.

There are children who don’t even know what a Bible is or who God is or that the name of Jesus isn’t a cuss word…and they live right here.

But there’s something else….

I read in the Gospels:

 Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left (Luke 8:37 NIV).

The people were afraid of Jesus at work.

They weren’t embracing the healing he offered and not the salvation either.  They sent Him away and with it they refused all hope of rescue.

All because they were afraid.

Maybe they didn’t wince at the sound of His name, but they feared Jesus’ presence.

Were they afraid of His power?

Were they afraid of shaking things up?  Afraid of what salvation might cost?  Fearful of what they might lose if they followed Him?

I remember the Israelites crowded around the base of Mt. Sinai, watching the pyrotechnical display of God’s glory, the thunder and lighting, the cloud of smoke, the trumpet blast:

When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance  and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”…The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was (Exodus 20:18-19, 21 NIV).

They trembled there at the mountain, slinking back in fear, remaining at a distance even when God invited them to come close.

This holy fear of God has its place, the reminder of His greatness and mighty power and how small we are indeed.

He is God.  I am not.

He is holy.  I am not.

We need the reawakening of awe.

But I wonder if we ever push God away in fear, or hide away in the shadows, remaining at a distance even when He whispers to us, ”Come…..closer….nearer….”

Are we too afraid that He’ll disrupt our lives? Or that drawing close will cost us and it will just be too much to pay?

Do we stand right there at the base of His presence and choose the safety of distance instead?

And maybe we don’t say it as bluntly as the crowd that sent Jesus away, maybe we don’t tell Him, “Can you just go off in your boat and do your work somewhere else?”

Maybe we know just enough…certainly more than a scared little boy listening to a lesson at Vacation at Bible School: yes, God loves us….yes, Jesus is our Savior. Maybe it’s just ‘blah, blah, blah’…just so many words.

Yet, maybe we shut Him out. Maybe we avoid the conviction of Scripture or the passion of all-in of worship. Maybe we want to sing “safe” songs on Sunday morning, hear “safe” messages, leave the Bible reading up to someone else, avoid the accountability of church or the nudge of the Holy Spirit to lay it all down in surrender.

Because we’re afraid.

Lord, help me stop being afraid and start drawing close to You. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be than in Your presence.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I ‘Learn to Say, ‘No?’

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 book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

What I Saw When I Took the Time to See

This month I’ve learned some things are worth the stopping…

and the pausing….

and the braking and the breaking….

so I can worship the Beautiful One who made such beauty.

I read in the Our Daily Bread Devotional Bible about this botanical garden on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls and a plaque there:

“Enter, friends, and view God’s pleasant handiwork, the embroidery of earth.”

So He does embroider this beauty, His handiwork: Handmade, God-stitched, beloved creation that glorifies its Creator.

I have dropped my armload of worldly goods right on the ground to take a picture of a butterfly.

butterflyingarden

I have pulled my minivan over to snap a picture of the sunset.

sunset

I have walked with eyes wide open.

walks1 walks2

I have listened to the symphony and strolled through the gardens.

purple tulips

cw gardens

I have dug in the dirt of my own little plot.

mint

And I have watched these butterflies emerge from the chrysalis and then fly free.

butterflies

Have you been on this quest for beauty, too?  And have you found what I have found?

For God is sheer beauty,
    all-generous in love,
    loyal always and ever 
(Psalm 100:5 MSG).

And have You worshiped in response and isn’t worship the only response when You’re seeking His Presence and You see these glimpses of His beauty in the beauty He has made?

I sing:

You are all my heart longs for
The treasure and the hunger
I’ve tasted and I must have more
Of Your Presence, God

You call me deeper than before
I’m falling further into You God
You are just so beautiful
I love Your Presence, God
(Presence, by Kathryn Scott)

and I sing…

The fullness of Your grace is here with me
The richness of Your beauty’s all I see
The brightness of Your glory has arrived
In Your presence God I’m completely satisfied
(Divine Romance by Phil Wickham)

I posted these pictures all month long on my Facebook page as I took breaks for beauty.  Did you miss them?  You can follow my Facebook page here so you don’t miss out again!

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I ‘Enjoy Beauty’?

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 book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

Ask Me More: When Anger is Justified But Not ‘Right’

One of the hardest parts of writing a book isn’t always choosing what to put in; it’s choosing what to leave out.

So, when I wrote Ask Me Anything, Lord, I had to choose which questions God asked in Scripture that I would include in the book and which ones I couldn’t.

That was tough.  In the end, I trusted God to lead me and even had to cut out some of my very favorite questions in favor of others I felt He wanted me to cover.

But now, I’d like to share some of the other questions with you in a series on the blog: Ask Me More.

And, if these questions intrigue you, please check out my book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Lives to God’s Questions for a deeper study on how we can let God search our hearts with the very questions He asked others in the Bible.

****************************************************************************************************************************

She’s angry, that’s obvious.

Anger transforms my blond beauty into a furious mess.  Her face burns red hot and tears sting her eyes and cheeks.  Her long hair escapes hair clips and ponytail holders and frizzes out all wild and untamed.  She stomps around as if her feet alone weigh 50 pounds each and her whole body closes in—her fists clenched, her arms crossed, her chin buried into her chest.

It’s her sense of justice that typically sends her into a fit.

This is right.

That’s wrong.

And I’m going to fight to prove it.

She gets that from her dad.  It’s one of the reasons I fell in love with him.

And, normally it’s the beauty in her, too: this absolute willingness to defend justice and truth no matter what it takes or costs.  One day maybe she’ll advocate for orphans and for the oppressed and she’ll be a mighty force on their behalf.

But sometimes, she doesn’t see the whole picture.  She is, after all, only eight years old, and when you’re eight, you don’t know as much as you think you know.

That’s why she assumes a fighting stance when her four-year-old sister munches on an ice cream sandwich.  How come she gets a treat?  That’s not fair!  I talk my crusader down off the ledge and remind her that she hadn’t even asked.  Why get angry when my answer would be yes?

And why rage over whether or not I punish her younger sister often enough?  It must be that she doesn’t trust me as a mom to discipline well, to show grace when needed, and to teach my children what is right.

I understand.  Don’t I sometimes rage myself over my own causes?

Don’t you?

Lord, why are you blessing them and I’m struggling?  I’m the one trying to be obedient and live the righteous life and they aren’t following you at all.  That’s just not fair!

Lord, did you see what they did to me?  Did you see how cruel and unfair, how they slandered and lied and spread the muck to others? Can’t you strike them with lightning or something?

Anger isn’t wrong in itself. We can fight with that same righteous indignation of Jesus cleansing the temple grounds of con men and scam artists.

But sometimes what we claim is righteous indignation really is not trusting God to see truth, to defend us, to care for us, to show mercy when mercy is needed and justice in its time.

That was the prophet Jonah, sitting on the outskirts of Nineveh in a foul mood all because God showed mercy to an entire nation when they repented following Jonah’s hellfire and brimstone proclamation.

This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen’ (Jonah 4:1-3).

He raged about God’s character, spitting out the words that should be worship as angry accusations instead:  I knew it.  You’re merciful, compassionate, slowly angered, abounding in love.

God could have defended Himself.  He could have given Jonah his wish and killed the frustrated prophet on the spot.jonah4

Instead, he used a question to dig out the mess of unforgiveness in Jonah’s heart and reveal God’s own character of compassion for the lost.

God asked:

 “Is it right for you to be angry about this?”  Jonah 4:4

It did seem right and just.  Nineveh was the enemy of God’s people!  They had destroyed Jonah’s friends and family! Surely they deserved revenge, not grace!

But God didn’t let the prophet linger there in hatred.  He caused a plant to grow overnight to shade Jonah’s hot head (in more ways than one!).  Then, when Jonah rejoiced over that plant, feeling somehow that he deserved God’s favor and blessing, God sent a worm to chomp that plant right down to nothing.

Jonah raged again.

And again God asked the question:

“Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?”
“Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!”  (Jonah 4:9)

God pressed in, challenging how Jonah cared more for a plant than for a nation of 120,000 lost people.  He shifted Jonah’s perspective and He urged Jonah to trust Him.

That’s what’s at stake for us, as well.

When we’re angry, can we still trust?

When anger seems justified, can we still lay our right to rage down at God’s feet and leave it all in His hands?

And as we do, we worship: You are merciful, compassionate, slow-to-anger, full of unfailing love.

Yes, Amen, Lord.  Your will be done even in 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 book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is now available!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Not Perfect, But All

It’s beautiful.

Not perfect, but beautiful.

The stitches aren’t tightly even, each one the same and pulled taut against the next in one long continuous line of knitted row after knitted row.  There are mistakes.  There are corrections.

There is learning.

But the beauty is there, unmistakable, the beauty of a gift, of an offering that took sacrifice and thoughtfulness and care.

Why else would an eight-year-old devote so much of her summer vacation to discovering the favorite colors of others and knitting them hand-made scarves to suit?yarn heart

As she knits, she learns.  Each scarf goes faster.  Each row becomes more even.

Less mistakes.  Less dropped stitches.  Less recovery and fewer requests: “Mom, can you help me?”  At first, I’m checking almost every row, periodically unraveling stitches to reach the start of all the trouble.

Two steps forward, one step back.  Sometimes more.

Now, though, her needles fly and she doesn’t carry me mistakes to fix; she brings me finished work with pride, with joy in the making and joy in the giving.

She hasn’t made a single scarf for herself.  Only for others.  Even her sisters line up stuffed animals who (clearly) need mini-scarves for the fall and winter season, and she knits a special order for a toy monkey and toy cat.

But those first scarves, like the wobbly steps of a weak-kneed toddler, aren’t perfect.

Still she gives.

And they are still beautiful.

I look up on a Sunday morning from my place at the piano keys to see one of the recipients on the church stage, draped with a yellow scarf,  a handmade gift from my daughter.

She wears the present with joy and I’m struck by the beauty—the beauty of one who cherishes the treasured offering of another without criticism, complaint, or the impossible standards of hostage-holding perfection.

And I’m struck by the beauty of my daughter, who gives not to show off, but to show love.

Perfectionism paralyzes….

We hoard and we hide because our offerings aren’t perfect.

She’s more capable, more talented, more equipped, more recognized…

He’s more educated, more bold, more articulate….

We compare, we fret, we worry, we feel so insufficient, and so we don’t offer any gift at all for fear of the failing.

My daughter knitted this summer.

I edited, proofread, wrote.

I sat in front of a word processor staring at the final draft of my book, tasked with proofing the text for the very last time, looking for spelling errors, for periods out of place, and for missing words.

My impulse was to hold on.

It’s been over two years since I finished writing that book, and now looking back I want to tinker and adjust, alter and amend.   I want to patch this here and fix that there.

But at some point, I had to attach the file to an email and hit send.  Off it goes, out of my hands, into the hands of the editor and on to the printer.  It’s done and I can’t go back anymore.

Perfectionism screams, “There’s always more to do.  Don’t ever offer up what isn’t absolutely right.”

But then there would be no offering.

Not now.  Not ever.  I’d wake up one day long from now and realize that I never gave because what I had was never good enough.

Better to offer as my daughter does: 

Giving with passion…

Giving with love…

Giving out of hard work and effort and time…

Growing, learning, improving, but only through the doing and the giving….  That is, after all, how we learn, not with the giving up or the hiding away, not with the wishing for more or the lost opportunities.

We learn through the mistakes, through the process, through the work itself and through the handing it over, an offering to God, a gift to others.

God didn’t call perfect people or those already equipped.

He called those willing to go and do.

Like the prophet, Amos, we know our own weaknesses, but we give anyway:

Amos answered Amaziah, “I was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel’ (Amos 7:14-15 NIV)

A shepherd.  A fig-grower.  That’s what he was.

God called

He obeyed.

God used.

God received the glory.

Thus, we lay down our gifts all full of holes and mistakes, with corrections and revisions, ones that aren’t perfect but ones that we labored over long.  We place them down on the altar and offer them up for His use, for His glory, for His name.

And then we go back and strive again, never for ourselves, always to give anew.

Never giving perfect.  Instead, giving all.

Heather King is a busy-but-blessed wife and mom, a 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

You Think You’ll Remember

I stopped three years ago.

They say you stop scrapbooking with your third baby just because you’re so busy or somehow you’re now over all that new-momma pride of first-time mothers or even second-time parents.

But that’s not what did it for me.  It’s that I scrapbooked not because I’m crafty or creative, in love with paper and colors, a fan of stickers and shaping scissors, or content to spend a few hours (or days) cropping photos and writing in the margins with a gel pen.

I scrapbooked because that’s what moms do.

Good moms anyway.

But I found out it had become a dreaded chore, the dragging out of the massive Rubbermaid container, the aching back after hours of gluesticks and paper cutouts, the stressing over straight lines and paper scraps.

Mostly, though, it was the clean-up afterward that did me in.  I may have time to make the albums (maybe?), but who has time to clean up from the project?

Perhaps if I had an entire room hidden away somewhere where mess could endure and not rattle my brain with annoyance and confusion, crafts and creativity would be fun.  Play with the paper, leave the scraps out on the table.  Arrange the pictures and leave them unfinished for another day.

Life’s not like that, though.  Mess needs to be stashed away.  It takes time to set up and time to clean up, so mostly I just leave the project alone before I begin.

For 3 years, it’s been stashed.  More memories of my girls poured in, so I piled them into boxes and plastic buckets and pushed them under the bed or stacked them up in this closet and that one.

Sometimes I’d at least remember to label the photos I printed and left in boxes or the pictures they drew that came off the fridge and made it into the box for keeping.033

Not always, though, and that was my mistake.

Because you think you’ll remember every detail of the who and when and what.  You think you’ll remember the stories, the firsts, every reason behind the paper that sits stacked in a cardboard box in your closet.

But really, we forget.

I dragged boxes out from various corners and hidden places and sorted through the papers and photos.  I didn’t find out how much I remember; I discovered how much I’d forgotten.

Who drew this, Mom?  Who is this, Mom?  What does this paper mean, Mom?

My children wanted to hear the details of the story and I struggled to remember which one of them had drawn that detailed picture of stick people with fingers sticking out of their arms like twigs or written me that note:  I luv mom.

How forgetful I am.  Life pushes me faster and faster, rushing through this day and the next, and even those moments you most expect to remember blur into the fog of it all.

Memory isn’t passive, not the way we expect it to be.  No, remembrance is an active discipline, a choosing not to forget despite our humanness, our busyness, our moving on.

I glance through my notes from a women’s conference two days later.  Right now, I still recall the mannerisms of the speaker on the stage, the intonation when she read this verse, the way she punctuated this lesson, the tiny details of the story she shared, and the way I laughed or cried or nodded my head from my blue cushioned seat across the arena.

How long will that last?

I think surely I will remember this promise, of course I will remember that challenge.  But maybe not.  Maybe I’ll feel vaguely encouraged, but not recall the why and wherefore.

We think we’ll remember the miracles, too, the accounts of how God delivered us, the times He carried us right out of the pit, the stand-still encounters with God when it seemed like He cut through all the noise of this world and the cacophony of our own emotions and He spoke to us, God to person, one clear voice cutting through it all with a message we’ll never forget.

Yet, we forget it after all.

Amos the prophet says that we even forget the lessons God has taught us:

“‘My people have forgotten how to do right’ says the Lord” (Amos 3:10 NLT).

Not what was right… so much as how to actually do it.

Even our best intentions to bless others or to reach out remain meaningless until we actually remember to follow through.

So, I transfer my notes from the conference over, being intentional, taking the time to fill in the details.

I take that card written, addressed, and even stamped out of my car and actually place it in the mailbox.

Taking the time….making the time…to remember before I forget.

Heather King is a busy-but-blessed wife and mom, a 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