Bleeding Words: An Offering

Ernest Hemingway said:

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

Now we’ve graduated to Word Processors, but still the pouring out of self onto paper burns painful at times.

But not when you hoard it or hide it away in safe shadows.  I can sit here typing away sentiments, thoughts, emotions crammed into words, hit the save button and tuck it away just for me. There’s no danger in that.

It’s in the sharing with others that you open your heart all up, vulnerable and unprotected.

So, I sat at that computer screen and had to breathe in and out a few times before opening the attached file.  It seems forever ago that I sent my editor the complete manuscript for my book, one file ask-me-anything-lord_kdattached to an email that read: Heather King-Ask Me Anything Lord.

And now here she had sent it back, this time marked as edited.

Sometimes in a wave of anxiety I think, “Oh, it would be so much easier to just end the exposure and hide myself away again.”  No more writing and hoping others like it, hoping no one criticizes or critiques.  No more posting to a blog or sending in articles to magazines or submitting manuscripts or book proposals to editors and waiting for the replies to come.

But in my heart, there is also this desire for growing and learning and for obedience, and this is my hope as I finally assume enough bravery to open up my editor’s attachment.  After all, don’t I want to hear what she says?  Don’t I want to mend and amend and improve all the time so every single day I’m more useful to God?

Yes.  I want my offerings to God to be ever more beautiful. When He asks me to lay it down, I want to have the gift in my hands to give, not locked away.

So, I double click the attachment in one quick act of bravery and scan through the comments.

I sigh out one heaving release of a held breath.

What she says blesses me.  I learn.  I edit here and understand there.  Really the changes aren’t so hard.  And instead of working alone, surreptitiously typing away on a private document, now I have shared the work with another.  We’ve united in our effort and it is better for the working together.

Sometimes, that fear of being hurt and the desire to be safe keeps us from ever raising our hand to volunteer or making the phone call with an offer to serve. Maybe instead of shining ourselves, we’re content to linger in the shadows so no one will see us in the light.

Yet, obedience means accepting the danger and willingly giving anyway. It means preparing our gifts, tending them, investing in them, honing them, learning from others so we can offer up what is a “pleasing aroma” of sacrifice to our God.

Shortly before Jesus’s betrayal and arrest, he dined at a man named Simon’s house in Bethany. A woman entered the feasting room and broke an entire jar of expensive and fragrant oil over Jesus’ head. Her prophetic gift to Christ, anointing him before his burial, was a public act of worship, not a safely private and hidden offering.

And she was criticized. The men at the table scolded her and evaluated her offering. They complained it was a waste of resources, unnecessary and without purpose. Others may have judged her, but Jesus quieted them saying:

“Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a noble thing for Me….She has done what she could” (Mark 14:6, 8 HCSB).

The offerings we bring to God are never about our glory or about competing with others or meeting expectations. It’s not about numbers, not about ‘success,’ not about being the best or at the very least being better. It’s about giving what we have, the very best we can indeed give.

Jesus’ is the only opinion that mattered at that table, and yes, it should be all that matters to us.

And He is simply pleased when He can say of us like he did of the woman with the alabaster jar, “she has done what she could.”

With what He’s given you, in the way that He’s designed you, using the passions, past, personality and gifts that He’s placed within you, are you doing what you could?

Not what anyone else could do.

Just what you can do.

If that’s what matters to Him, that’s all that should matter to us.  So despite the danger of exposure or the fear of critique, we offer back to Him what He has given us.

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

VBS for Grown-Ups: Trusting God Helps Us

All week long I’m thinking about the Bible points for our Vacation Bible School and what they mean for adults.  This week will be a mix of some old and some new as I share these lessons.

Today at Kingdom Rock VBS (Group Publishing), we’re learning: Trusting God Help Us…Stand Strong!kingdom-rock-logo-hi-res

“Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock” Isaiah 26:4
Adapted from “Present and Accounted For,” published 10/31/2012

“Where are you going, Mom?”

My three-year-old has a radar system that rings alarms and sets off alerts if there is a possibility that I am going out…and leaving her at home.

That morning, she had caught me slipping on my socks.  I reassured her, though, “Just putting on my socks because my feet are cold, baby girl.  I’m not going out.”

“You’re staying here?”
“Yes.”
“You’re not leaving?”
“No, sweetie. Mommy’s staying with you today.”

Snuggling in close to me, she pressed her cheek against mine and cooed, “Mommy, I stay with you.”

Of course, she can’t, not all the time, not forever, not every minute and each second of day after day after day.  But for this moment, here I was snuggling with her and remaining present.

We sing it occasionally at church, declaring, “You are My Shield, My strength, My Portion, Deliverer, My Shelter, Strong Tower, My very present help in time of need.”

This is our way of singing Psalm 46 back to God:

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
  though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging (Psalm 46:1-3). 

Normally, I sing this song imagining God as my Tower, my Shelter in the most fearsome storms.

But what good is a tower-of-brick if it isn’t nearby when you need to hide?  And what is the point of a refuge that is too far away to reach in times of distress?

It is God’s constant, faithful presence that makes Him effective as our Refuge and our Strength, our Defense and our Deliverer.

That is why “we will not fear,” not during storm or raging sea, or mountains crumbling or news reports of flooding and fire and disaster.

Because He is present.  Not just here in this moment and maybe leaving us later in the care of others while He slips out for a meeting or relaxes with friends or fills a cart with groceries at the local store.

We needn’t trip to His feet in alarm when He pulls on His socks or takes His jacket down from the pegs in the closet.

He is always, ever, constantly, faithfully, never-changing, perpetually, every second of every day present with us.

This means He didn’t close His eyes, turn His head, blink, snooze, or simply grow too distracted to care when the mountains crumbled and the waters roared.

No, our God doesn’t promise us a world without frightful shaking and uncertainty.  It’s a sin-plagued planet, aching and groaning for the perfection of eternity.  Hurting and death and sickness and tears are part of life here.cross

Jesus Himself struggled with the pain and the death, earth’s inheritance, as He prayed alone in the garden before being hauled off for trial, persecution, and the cross.  Sacrifice didn’t come easy for Him just because He was God here in human flesh.

He wrestled with His emotions, with His human weaknesses and the temptation laid at His feet to just abandon us all to eternity in hell.  And who could blame Him?  How could we ever be worthy of God’s great sacrifice?

But God was with Him in the garden, and Jesus trusted that God would give Him the courage and strength to declare, “It is finished” after walking in and out of the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

And God promises to be with us, to be the strength and shelter we need for whatever rages outside or inside our lives.

Moses came down from Mount Sinai and plead with God simply for this presence.  Days on that holy mountain, shining with reflected glory, and Moses still longed for more of God.

The Lord Himself promised:  “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14)

His presence.  Our rest.  Without Him, turmoil and worrying and stress.

Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:15-16).

Like Moses, we pray, knowing that without God’s presence, we are a mess and a disaster, and we are alone and lost, no different than those who don’t know Him at all.

His presence is what sets us apart.  That’s what gives us hope for each new day and peace.  That’s what others should notice about us–Christ in us, the hope and glory.

Today is a day to praise God for His presence, to thank Him for being eternally faithful, the Rock we can rely on, our Refuge in times of trouble, a Fortress of safety in the storms we face.

Trusting God in that way helps us stand strong.

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 © 2013 Heather King

Learning the Magic Word

It’s just something we moms do.  Generations and generations of moms.  I bet Eve was saying it to her sons as she raised her growing family in the wilderness outside the Garden of Eden.

Mom hands child juice cup.

Child takes juice cup.

Mom says, “Say ‘thank you.’

Child repeats, “Thank you.”

Parental instruction complete.

Some of us even begin teaching our children the sign language for thank you before they can actually talk.

Occasionally we vary our strategy and style.  As our kids get older, we do less verbatim repetition and more prompting.

Mom asks: “What do you say when someone gives you something?” or “What’s the magic word?”

Child, totally engrossed in cup of juice or with cookie picks up on the cue and says, “Thank you.”

We’re teaching gratitude here, establishing the discipline of thanks and appreciation.  We’re slowly shocking the human propensity toward selfishness and self-centeredness into the reality that when people do nice things for you, it’s not because you deserve them or you’ve earned them, but because of their generosity and grace.

Maybe we never grow out of this lesson.

Even when Jesus healed ten lepers and sent them on their way to purification and restoration with their families and with society, only one returned to give thanks.  Grown men responded to a miracle from God with forgetfulness and distraction, a shrugging of the shoulders and a moving on to other things.

Like any mom, I’m engaged in the training now, teaching my kids to be grateful for breakfast cereal, snack time, birthday presents and treats at the frozen yogurt shop.  I’m reminding them to take the time for gratitude and to put thankfulness into words.

And then sometimes my preschooler just remembers on her own.  She plays with her toys and in a moment of inspiration lifts her blond head and announces, “Thank you, Mom!  Thank you for taking me to the park today.”016

Anything could spark her little heart to give thanks.  Thank you for buying me these new shoes at the store.  Thank you for getting my favorite cereal.  Thank you for finding my Barbie in the basket.

The beauty here is the spontaneity of her gratefulness.  She’s been thinking about the gift and her response isn’t to collapse into selfishness or obsession with the gift itself, but to recognize the giver.

In Desiring God, John Piper wrote:

Worship is a way of gladly reflecting back to God the radiance of His worth.  This cannot be done by mere acts of duty (p. 80).

There are times, of course, when the worship we offer up to God isn’t matched by our emotions.  We give praise when circumstances are hard.  We give thanks before the victory.

Sometimes we choose to worship in advance of the blessing and simply in faith, knowing that we can’t see God at work now and don’t know how He could possibly deliver us from such impossible circumstances, but still we know He is God.  He is faithful.  He is able.  He is worthy.

So we “offer up a sacrifice of praise” (Hebrews 13:15 HCSB).

Maybe we come out of duty and out of discipline, repeating the words “thank you” because that’s what you say and this is what you do.

Then slowly God changes our heart.  The shifting of our eyes from our problem to our God, the deliberate rejection of “self” and the purposeful choice to worship opens our eyes to His wonder and glory.

That’s how it goes sometimes.  We say thanks because thanks is what you say—and thus we truly become grateful.

The danger, though, is that we say the words without the heart change.

God said of Israel:

these people approach Me with their mouths to honor Me with lip-service—yet their hearts are far from Me, and their worship consists of man-made rules learned by rote (Isaiah 29:13 HCSB).

Worship that remains duty or discipline and never progresses beyond that isn’t ultimately worship at all.  It’s rules and rote, tradition, expectations, religion, service order, church etiquette or outward show.

At some point, those lessons in thankfulness have to dig deep roots in our heart and start producing shoots of life and eventually fruitfulness for harvest.Psalm 3011

That’s when we respond in spontaneous delight.

It’s when our hearts just can’t keep the joy inside, not when He’s so worthy, not when God is so gracious, not when His mercy is so overwhelming and power so awesome.

Like David, we sing:

You turned my lament into dancing;
You removed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
so that I can sing to You and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will praise You forever (Psalm 30:11-12 HCSB).

We’ve moved beyond praising because it’s required.  Now we praise because we can’t possibly keep silent about our God.

And so we worship.ShabbyBlogsDividerJ

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 © 2013 Heather King

After the Parade Passes By

Yesterday, they formed a parade in my honor.

I heard the commotion outside the bathroom door as I finished brushing my teeth on the morning of Mother’s Day.

At the sound of the whispering and shuffling, I opened the door to find three daughters and one husband singing, “Happy Mother’s Day to you…” their own take on the familiar birthday tune.

My youngest waved two hand-made flags, my oldest led the singing with her present in hand, my middle girl smiled in her Groucho Marx funny glasses.  They had as021signed my husband a triangle and given him handwritten sheet music so he knew when to play his notes.

Happy Mother’s Day to you. (tap, tap)

Happy Mother’s Day to you. (tap, tap)

Happy Mother’s Day, dear Mommy. (tap, tap)

Happy Mother’s Day to you. (tap, tap, tap)

They labored with love and presented handmade gifts, so thoughtful and sweet, and they were so proud of their offerings.  More than just handwritten notes, they had created dot-to-dot puzzles and coloring sheets for me with hidden messages.

All day my daughters fussed at me for pouring the cereal, clearing the table, or buckling my youngest girl’s seatbelt.

You shouldn’t have to do anything today, Mom.  That’s what my middle girl assured me.

Mother’s Day, all that recognition and thanks, all those assurances that the daily grind that has ground you right down is noticed and worth it and they appreciate it after all and maybe all those times you felt invisible someone actually saw you, that’s such a beautiful gift to a woman.  It fills her soul right up so that she’s able to pour out more.

Parades, though, all have endings.  A final float, the Santa sleigh or the police escort brings up the rear and everyone packs up their lawn chairs and bags of candy and treks back to their cars.

And we wake up the day after Mother’s Day and love without the flags and songs.

The phone is ringing, the laundry spinning, the dishwasher humming, and I’m running through the to-do list today.

But it’s when I scrub the toilet, of all things, that I remember as I grumble a little with that silent whine that no one else knows about except God.

How it must sadden Him so, how disappointed He must be by my heart’s ugly attitude as I serve, as I wash feet without joy and give without cheerfulness of heart.

There I scrub, bleach poured out and I’m working fast just to get it all done, when I remember—yesterday, they made a parade for me.

These gifts of God, my family so precious, those I watched last night after they were in deep sleep, breathing slow, hair tangled all over pillows, fleece blankets wrapped tight like cocoons around them.  I remember that I had prayed such deep thanks for these blessings.

And I felt so overwhelmed by that grace we can’t ever understand, how God trusted me with these daughters and the love of this husband.  This is the great privilege and highest honor.

Serving with joy, that’s my heart bent deep in gratitude to God.

It all feels easier for a while because I remember.  The laundry and the toilets and scrubbing the toothpaste off that sink: this isn’t mundane and annoying.  It’s the blessing and the gift.

But the challenge is here: How to remember the parade a week from now, a month, this time next year?  It’s always in those moments after the high of a mountaintop that we can crash right down the hardest because we have the farthest to fall.

Like Elijah, sitting on that mountain all alone after defeating 450 prophets of Baal in a spiritual showdown with supernatural fire.  It was after the victory that he ran away in fear.  After all that boldness, there was terror and loneliness and suicidal despair.

How could he forget, I wonder?

Maybe he hadn’t learned to live without the parade.

Sometimes God speaks in the whirlwind, the earthquake and the fire.  Sometimes it’s grand and showy.

But not always.

Oh no, sometimes it’s that “still small voice” and this we forget in the days long after the Mother’s Day parade when we’ve started to feel a little overlooked and invisible again.  We forget how to see God in the quiet and the everyday.

Zechariah 4:10 asks: “Who dares despise the day of small things?”

The small things, the quiet ways, the stillness, the everyday, the service without parades, the scrubbing down bathrooms without whining….that’s where we can find beauty, where we hear God, where our worship brings Him joy.

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

Captivated

Sometimes you have to fight for the glory and squint your eyes tight to find the wonder.

Like today.

My daughter woke me up early.  She was ready for the day; I wanted to enjoy a little more night, and so the morning began with a headache, fatigue and maybe a not-so-cheerful attitude.

Then, just as I began to settle into the day, I glanced up at the calendar at 7:58 and realized the heating and air conditioning repairman was coming between 8 and 8:30 a.m.  Oops, forgot that one.

He came at 8:20 and normally that time for me is for morning tea and long devotions, starting the week with God and then writing.

But how to be inspired and still with God, how to type out these words on the computer when he’s banging parts and dismantling pieces?  Then he calls out, “Ma’am?” and I flinch because I know it’s not to tell me good news.

My to-do list was long.  The laundry piled high.  The sink stacked with morning dishes.

But I’m fighting for this, so I open to the first day of my new Bible Study, Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg:

“God desires to captivate us not just with his handiwork but with Himself–displaying facets of His character, igniting us with His fiery love, awakening us to the intensity of His holiness” (11).

Captivate me, Lord.  Right here, this tiny person in this moment when all the mundane is pressing heavy on my heart and I’m just about suffocated from the stifling weight of it all.

Feinberg tells me that this is what God desires and I wonder: If I’m not feeling it, is it because I’ve shut Him down and crowded Him out?  Is He willing to reignite me and I’m unwilling to notice

I flip through my Bible to Hebrews 12:28-29:

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”

It starts with thanks, gratitude that anything that shakes apart the foundation of my day can’t touch the foundation of His kingdom, my faith, or eternity with Him–Not early mornings, interrupted routines, home repairs, not even the incessant grinding of the daily.

It requires worship grounded in reverence and awe because my God, Savior, Friend, and Lover of my Soul, is a Consuming Fire, and even on days when I’m just seeing the tiniest ember and flicker of that holy flame, He remains the same.

In Scripture, Elisha stood with his prophet-mentor, Elijah, and asked so boldly for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit (2 Kings 2:9).  So, when I read Elisha’s story, I expect the miracles all to be earth-shattering, all fire from heaven with awe and wonder.

It was Elijah, after all, who staged the showdown with the prophets of Baal, who predicted a long and devastating drought over the land and then foretold the rain that started as one tiny cloud as big as a man’s fist.  He went head-to-toe with Ahab and Jezebel until he was whisked away to heaven in a flaming chariot.

The double-portion of that Spirit must be pretty spectacular.

But when I read Elisha’s story, he made foul water fit to drink.  He cursed a group of taunting boys who called him “baldy.”  He gave oil to a poor widow, made some poisonous stew safe for consumption.  And when an ordinary worker dropped his ax in the lake, Elisha made the ax head float on the water.

It was everyday stuff, most of it.  He had a few moments, like raising a boy from the dead.  Overall, though, it seems so mundane.  So everyday.  He helped people eat and drink.  Helped them work and not have to trek to Home Depot for some new tools.

And maybe that’s the reminder here.  Maybe it takes even more faith to look for the power and spirit of God at work in the smallest of needs and the most everyday of circumstances.

Swamp milkweedI look out of the window over my kitchen sink while I wash the last cereal bowl and see the plants we bought the day before, still waiting to be planted in the dirt of our garden.  We went on a hunt for milkweed to attract monarch butterflies and came home with these two green pots.

They look like the smallest and plainest of dead sticks.  My daughter was skeptical.  Could this brown spindly stalk grow anything beautiful?  Is it even alive?

But today I’ve fought for the wonder and the glory.

Today, I’ve determined to plant and nurture the pitiful, the brown, the spindly, the weak, the seeming lifeless–and wait for God to cultivate and grow the glory and the beauty.

Yes, in my garden.  Yes, in my life and heart.

Captivate me.

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 © 2013 Heather King

Altars of Uncut Stones

Originally published April 16, 2012

I picked up my daughter’s yellow spring jacket and felt weight, heaviness where it shouldn’t be.  Clearly she had stuffed her pocket at the park with her latest treasure.

Curious, I slipped my hand into her pocket and pulled out . . . a rock.  Two rocks actually, one for each pocket.

They weren’t gems, either.  No sparkles or beauty.  No monetary value.020

They were plain ordinary gravel, no different than the layer of rock on my driveway.  In fact, the one crumbled into my fingers with the slightest pressure.

I sighed.  She had been toting home rocks for about two years now.  Everywhere we went, some pebbles, gravel, or smooth stones caught her attention and ended up in her pockets.

She has even tried to remove stones from the paths at Colonial Williamsburg and the zoo and once tried to haul away a cement block from the local museum where its grand function was to hold open the door.

I put my foot down about those.

But if it fits neatly into the pocket of her jacket, she’s likely to tuck it away and add it to her “rock collection.”  Perhaps she’ll even give it a name, which usually ends up being something like “Rocky” or another equally creative moniker.

To me, they are plain, ordinary, maybe even ugly rocks.  To her, they are treasured collectibles.

She’s not the only one who finds beauty in simple stones.  God loves them, too.

As they crossed over the Jordan River, the Israelites obeyed God’s instruction, picking up 12 stones from the river bed and lugging them up the embankment onto dry land.  God told them to use those stones to build an altar.

More specifically,

“an altar of stones.  You shall wield no iron tool on them; you shall build an altar to the Lord your God of uncut stones. And you shall offer burnt offerings on it to the Lord your God, and you shall sacrifice peace offerings and shall eat there, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God” (Deut. 27:5-7 ESV)

Their peace offerings and sacrifices, their worship and rejoicing before the God who had carried them into the Promised Land, may have seemed more fit for an altar of finest gems.

Perhaps their greatest artisans could have finely cut diamonds, emeralds and rubies into an altar fit for worship of the Most High God.

Or, if they had to use river rocks, at the very least they could have chiseled and carved until the altar looked like a marble statue.

Yet, God was clear.  Stones, simple stones, uncut by any human tool, formed the altar fit for the offerings of His people.

Why did God even care about a detail so small?  According to Him, “If you make an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones, for if you wield your tool on it you profane it” (Exodus 20:25).

To God, human construction on the altar stones made them unholy and profane.

That’s because God knew the danger implicit in cut stones and man-made bricks.  The moment we begin to adorn altars with human effort is the moment we shift the focus off of the God we praise.

We become idolaters.  Our worship becomes profane, admiring the human talent that made the vessel or cut the stone.

This is what God accused the people of doing in Isaiah:

I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices;a people who provoke me to my face continually, sacrificing in gardens and making offerings on bricks” (Isaiah 65:2-3 ESV).

Israel ignored God’s mandate and chose instead to offer their sacrifice among garden flowers.  They had rejected simple stones in favor of brick constructions.

Israel wanted to worship God their own way and on their own terms.  His instructions seemed superfluous and unnecessary.

In the same way, God sometimes overturns our expectations of adequate offerings and suitable worship.

He desires the simplicity of an obedient heart.

We think He needs more.  

So, we hold back our offerings until they are “fit” for Him.  We hide in the sanctuary pews until we have more to give.  We think other worshipers, who are more talented and more rehearsed, give gifts more worthy.

It isn’t, however, about being the best, most talented, or most qualified; it’s about being called.  Yours is the offering He desires.

There is beauty in the uncut stones of our worship.  It’s never about the show, never about our own talent or training; it’s not about looking good or fitting in, or processing our worship into acceptable forms—all human additions that shift focus off God and onto human ability.

Instead, it’s about responding to God in pure uncut adoration.

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 © 2013 Heather King

Not the Other Mom

Her Other Mom cooks yummy pancakes.

Her Other Mom bought all of her clothes (although I clearly remember shopping myself).012

Her Other Mom has a big house with a pink toilet in it.

Her Other Mom owns a dog.

Her Other Mom tells her when to eat, when she can have a snack, when she can go outside to play, what shows to watch on television, and whether or not it’s bedtime.

Her Other Mom has that book, that Kindle app, that game, that movie, and every toy that’s ever been advertised on television…ever.

We’re not exactly sure when it happened or how, but at some point my three-year-old transitioned from a mini-van full of fairly typical imaginary friends to an imaginary “Other Mom.”

Eventually the Other Mom had an Other Dad and Other Sisters and even Brothers, and she chats about this entire Other Family all day long.

We laugh most of the time (quietly to ourselves, of course) and let her chatter on about this pretend family.

Once I mistakenly corrected her, reminding her at dinner that it wasn’t the cape-wearing superhero Other Mom who gave her a birthday gift, but it was in fact me.

She cried.

So, I mostly leave it be and certainly don’t use the words “pretend” or “imaginary,” “not real” or “fake” whenever she launches into one of her Other Mom fairy tales.

But the other day, I leaned in close to my little one and whispered, “Who loves you?”

Without a second’s breath, she blurted out “My Other Mo……” and then she stopped.  She put down the crayon she was coloring with and let it roll on the table, concentrating on my question.  She pushed back the flyaway hairs escaping from her ponytail.

Then she looked right into my eyes and said, “You!” and giggled at me like we had just shared the best knock-knock joke ever heard by a preschooler.

“And who else loves you?” I asked her, pressing in on the moment.

“My cats….and Lauren and Victoria and my Dad.”

Not her Other Dad, not those Other Sisters, or the Brothers or the imaginary dog…

We love her, this real family who takes care of her real needs and buys her real clothes and cooks her real food.

It’s innocent, of course, this imagination of hers.  Most days, I try to marvel at it rather than question too much whether deficiencies in me gave her reason to create an Other Mom (I don’t, after all, have a pink toilet in my home).

But then there’s God and then there’s us and it really isn’t innocent much of the time, forgetful, yes…apathetic at times…generally oblivious in some moments.

Like Israel just a short hike from Egypt, not long enough for a generation to develop spiritual amnesia about their miraculous deliverance out of slavery, still they were forgetful beings.  Moses delayed on the mountain with the Lord, so Aaron threw some gold into the fire and pulled out a golden cow.

The people looked at that man-made object and declared, “Israel, this is your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!” (Exodus 32:4).

And they did it again generations later.  King Jeroboam decided it was too difficult for the people to trek to Jerusalem to worship in the temple.  It required too much sacrifice, too much effort.

So, “he made two golden calves, and he said to the people, ‘Going to Jerusalem is too difficult for you. Israel, here is your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt.'” (1 Kings 12:28).

How?

How could they give any fake god or false idol the credit for miraculous salvation?

How could worship be so fickle?

How could they forget who God is and what He had done?

How could we?

We’re not three-year-olds with active imaginations.  We’re His children who forget to thank Him, forget to worship Him, forget to give Him glory for what He’s done, forget today what miracle He did for us yesterday, forget to look for Him in the middle of our everyday lives.

We too often just accept the gifts without pausing to see, really see, the way they drip with grace.

Praising Him one day; forgetting the next; overlooking His goodness; blaming Him for what is wrong and not thanking Him for what is good….so we fall and so we fail, and so we end up worshiping golden calves of our own making.

But God reminded His people: “I am the Lord your God, who brought your out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery” (Exodus 20:2).

Yes, He is the God worthy of our praise.  He is the God who rescued us.  He is the God who loves us.

Yes, He is God and God alone.

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 © 2013 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

Dancing in Secret

I walked into the playroom quickly this morning, mom on a mission, toys in hand headed for the baskets to put them away, but then I stopped abruptly.

I had caught my toddler dancing.  She was boogieing left and right, lifting legs and arms and grinning.

As soon she saw me, she froze in mid-boogie and dropped her head in bashful embarrassment.

My girl is a secret dancer and a private singer.  In the car, sometimes she forgets we’re there and accidentally starts singing along with her songs, bouncing her head and kicking her legs in time to the music.

But then I watch her for one second too long in my rear-view mirror and she notices that I’m watching and stops.

I’m never critical of her.  It brings me great joy to see her sing and dance with a happy heart.  Still, she has this innate pulling back, an automatic embarrassment that we never overcome no matter how many times I whisper, “It’s okay to dance.  It’s beautiful to hear you sing.”

Some of us are secret worshipers, too.   Like Nicodemus, we meet with Jesus in darkness and in privacy, afraid of what others might say or do if they knew we were pursuing Christ.

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 repression. 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 performed one of those miracles that amazed people so much they couldn’t just stand around in quiet interest or retreat to places of private praise to avoid shame.

A widow walked behind a funeral procession, following the men lifting high the casket of her only son.  Seeing her pain, Jesus responded with compassion, touched the coffin and commanded that her precious son rise up from the dead.

The son got up out of that coffin 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).

I love how 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).

When was the last time you saw God active in your life and were filled with awe and holy fear?

His God-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 remove our sandals like Moses, in reverence that this is Holy Ground, made holy because God is here.

But then, overcome by awe, the people “praised God” and “noisily grateful,” they told everyone what Jesus had done.

They didn’t stay silent and keep the good news to themselves. They didn’t nod their heads in modest approval, but refrain from emotion and exuberance.

No, they shouted: 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!!

This was their message as they traveled through the country.

This is our message, too.
He saved us.  He is saving us.
He redeemed us.  He is rescuing us.

He is with us.  He has not abandoned us!

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, night-time Jesus-seekers too frightened of popular opinion for all-out discipleship.

Nicodemus had this choice, too.  He had come in the shadows of  night to ask Jesus just what being “born again” really meant.

But when Jesus died and his disciples had scattered, it wasn’t the faithful women who remained at the cross that arranged for burial.

Instead, A man named 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 people, 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.

Scripture doesn’t tell us how Nicodemus and Joseph reacted when days later they learned that the grave clothes they had wrapped around Jesus’ body were folded in an empty tomb.

I bet they told everybody what God had donehow they knew for sure He was dead.  Hadn’t they wrapped his body?  Hadn’t they touched lifeless skin and moved a corpse into a grave?

Jesus had risen indeed!

I bet they danced and sang loud and didn’t care any longer who was watching.

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.


Have Mess, Need Mercy

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness”
Lamentations 3:21, 22

We all have mess.  I surely do.

When I was a young girl, my mom handed me the book, Old Yeller, and told me, “you’re going to cry when you read this.”

I didn’t.  It was a spiteful hardness, the determination that no matter how intensely sad the story became, I wouldn’t cry simply because she said I would.

This hasn’t changed much over time.  I can generally keep an open mind until someone tells me, “You WILL, you WON’T you CAN’T, you MUST, you HAVE to . . . ”  Anything that pushes me into a corner receives a (sometimes unwarranted) push back.

I have other stuff, too.  Like the fact that I ALWAYS get lost and the directions that make so much sense to everyone else on the planet become a jumbled mass of confusion to me.

I have an organized mind that sees the world in a perpetual outline with points I, II and II and subpoints A, B, and C, but I desperately need a personal secretary to keep me from losing papers and to clean through my desk and help me remember where I put my keys, the library book, the document, the super important thing that I absolutely cannot lose but have managed to misplace.

It doesn’t end there.  I’m a people-pleaser in daily need of encouragement and too easily crushed by constructive criticism.  I’m not always patient with failure, especially in myself, and even sometimes with my kids.  I have a problem with jealousy, not so much for “stuff,” but maybe for success or impact.

There’s more.  The longer I sit here typing away, the more mess I’ll probably discover.

And while in any and all of these areas God has been at work, digging out junk, sometimes with a gentle gloved hand and sometimes with a pick-axe, still there is mess.  There are days where it’s a little overwhelming. Or maybe a lot.

When my house is too disorderly, I can’t think, I can’t concentrate, my stress level rises.  It’s the same with my heart when I see the junk drawers overflowing or discover trash hiding in corners that I hadn’t noticed before.

How is there any room left for what is good and pure and lovely? 
How is there any possibility of inviting God in amongst junk? 
How can anyone feel welcomed and loved into this place of distracting trash?

Once when she was out driving, Ruth Graham noticed that a stretch of highway that had undergone road work for far too long was finally finished and reopened.  They had even posted a sign: “End of Construction.  Thanks for Your Patience.”

She wanted that message to be on her tombstone, a reminder that it’s only in heaven, at the feet of God and clothed in the forgiveness of Christ, that construction on our hearts and minds will be complete.

Until then, we need people–and God–to be patient with us.  Yes, we even need to be a little patient with ourselves.

God is able to transform us and make us new as long as we give over sin, faults, idols, foibles, weakness and failures to Him.  This is part of our salvation story, not a one-time dip in the cleansing blood of Christ’s sacrifice.  It’s the journey of our faith, the sanctification or making holy over time.

And it does take time.

This is what Paul promises, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6 ESV).

In the meantime, we have grace, precious grace, and the reminder that our mess is never too heavy to bring to God.

My own efforts are little more than attempts at self-control, self-direction, self-justification, self-perfection, self-reliance and self-confidence.

Then, SELF just becomes part of the mess that we lug to the feet of Jesus.

Ultimately, our own efforts fail.  Giving up completely hinders our relationship with God.  Wallowing in self-loathing means we reject His grace as insufficient to cover our sin.

All that’s left is to bring our mess to God and rejoice in His mercy.  Like the woman who poured out her tears and expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet, we find ourselves moved to passionate worship of and service for a God who has forgiven our many sins (Luke 7:47).

Paul wrote, “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God” ( Romans 12:1).

We aren’t holy and pleasing sacrifices to God because we’re finished, perfected, construction complete.

Instead, we offer ourselves up, mess and all,  “in view of God’s mercy.”

His grace covers us, cleanses us and, in His compassion, He transforms us.  He’s big enough and gracious enough to tackle our mess until the day He decides that construction is complete and He takes us home.

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.