Explaining a Mystery

A neon green Post-It note appeared on my counter this morning.  On it is sketched a smiling girl in a floor-length dress and matching cape, a three-spiked crown on her head and long, flowing, hair pulled into a ponytail.  The note reads, “I am gong to be a prinsess wun I groe up.”

Clearly the work of my oldest daughter.

Princess fever runs high in my house.  Recently, my two older girls had their first true playdate when a good friend visited our house.  Within moments, all three tiny ladies had stripped their outer garments and were frantically donning ball gowns and slipping into plastic high-heeled shoes that clicked on the kitchen linoleum (and scared me to death for fear they might slip!).  They adorned themselves with long beady necklaces and bangles around their wrists.  Atop each head sat a sparkly princess tiara complete with pink hearts and diamonds.  Grabbing purses and mirrors and other accessories, these stylish princesses sat daintily around a little table and sipped tea and lemonade from tiny plastic teacups, of course holding their pinkies out like all true princesses do.

This is a mystery to me.

I did not twirl around in princess skirts as a girl, decking myself out in finery to await the prince’s arrival.  I did not host tea parties for my teddy bears or clip-clop around the house in deadly high-heeled shoes as a child (or as a grown woman).  Nor did I set out to turn my three daughters into pink-and-purple-loving, dress-wearing, nail-polishing lovers of all things fancy, sparkly and feminine.  This has somehow been innately placed into their tiny hearts by a God with a sense of humor.

My daughters arrive at my feet some days with dresses from my closet hanging over their arms.  “Mom, why don’t you ever wear this dress?  It would make you look pretty.”  Because of course the most appropriate attire for folding clothes and cleaning toilets is in fact a black dress with a swirly skirt.

Frequently, my oldest princess wannabe—with some exasperation—explains to me that she simply cannot wear pants because “pants are for boys.  Princesses don’t wear pants.”  At which point, I look down at my jeans and sneakers and trudge back to her room to exchange her playclothes for a dress and stockings.

And so I am a mystery to them.

Sometimes I look deep into their flashing blue eyes and explain to these precious girls that they will always be amazingly beautiful on the outside, but what is so much more important is the inside of their hearts and how they love God and love people.  I say this to them because I know “charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30, NIV).

I want them to know that they are not merely external creatures, striving to meet arbitrary standards of perfection.  Instead, I tell them “let not yours be the merely external adorning of the hair; the wearing of jewelry, or change of clothes, but let it be the inward adorning and beauty of the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible and unfading charm of a gentle and peaceful spirit, which is not anxious or wrought up, but is very precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:3-4, AMP).

And while I so often fail to display for them a “gentle and peaceful spirit” that isn’t anxious (read here stressed and freaking out), it is nevertheless my true desire to show them a woman who is at least trying to be “very precious in the sight of God.”

This is the mystery I explain to them.

When my oldest girl prayed her little earnest plea for Jesus to come into her heart and forgive her sins, we told her the most amazing thing had happened to her.  She had become a daughter of the King of kings.  “Do you know what that means?,” I whispered into her ear.  Slowly I could see her piece it all together and she announced with pride, “I’m a real princess now!”

She takes that very seriously.  To her friends, she explains, “I’m not a pretend princess like the ones in the movies.  I’m a real princess of God.”

It’s an amazing gift—this role as princess.  It means she is dearly loved and given a place of blessing and honor by the holy and awesome King who watches her with love.

It’s also an amazing responsibility.

A princess is kind to others (and talking animals) and always serves and shows concern for the feelings and well-being of those around her.  A princess works hard at her chores and doesn’t shirk dirty work (like caring for seven men who sweat all day in a mine while whistling). A princess develops and uses her gifts to bring glory to her King (like singing songs in the forest and reading books from an enchanted library).  A princess is beautiful inside and out and always strives to find the good and beautiful in others (including beasts and little old women).  A princess has good manners and is modest and virtuous, with beauty of character and strength of mind.

These are the mysteries they explain to me.

We princesses and daughters of the Most High King don’t all emerge from our houses each day with long, flowing hair, pink ballgowns, glass slippers, and multi-colored accessories.  Some of us head to work in power suits or rock sick babies in our pajamas or shop at Wal-Mart in our jeans and flip-flops.

God’s creativity knows no bounds and we are a daily display to the world of God’s heart for beauty and variety.

Yet, to all of us, He can say, “The King is enthralled with your beauty; honor Him, for He is your Lord” (Psalm 45:11, NIV).

That is a gift.  It’s a special role He’s given us, to reflect His aesthetic flare, to represent grace and beauty to a world that is sometimes so harsh and cruel.

But it’s also a responsibility.  We are to “honor Him” for He is our Lord.  I ask my daughters at times, “Would a princess behave that way?  Would a princess hurt someone else’s feelings?  Would a princess say those mean things?”  And so we can ask ourselves, “Would a Daughter of the King make those choices, use those words, hurt those people . . . ”

There are detractors of course.  Those who try to convince us that we simply fall too short of God’s standard to be a princess.  Others who point to our outward appearance and question our unique beauty.  A world that constantly reminds us we are not enough.

However we are dressed, no matter our outward appearance and regardless of our hairstyle, God draws us close and whispers truth into our hearts: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3, NIV).  Uniquely created by a God of infinite imagination.  Specially designed to be loved by a King.

This is the mystery He explains to us.

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

Lost and Broken

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost
Luke 19:10, NIV

I get lost . . . a lot.  Every time I bravely drive off on my own, I carefully write out step-by-step directions with landmarks and mile markers.  At first, I try talking to myself in my car, verbally reviewing the directions and hoping no one I knows drives by and sees my one-on-one conversation.  Inevitably, I concede defeat and call my husband asking frantically for help.  When I leave on these adventures, I suspect he just keeps the phone by his side awaiting my S.O.S.

Directions confuse me.  My body lacks some sort of navigational center.

Besides that, my memory is jumbled and crowded to the point of spilling over and there’s no room for more trivialities.  I rejoice at remembering my hurriedly scribbled shopping list.  Victory!   The cost is forgetting where I parked my car.

So, I wander.  I wander down side streets and make U-turns and scowl at inconvenient one-way roads.  With my eyes squinted tightly, I try ever-so-hard to read the road signs before it’s too late to turn.  I pray that no one else is behind me, frustrated with the clearly lost driver who is inching down the highway.  I wander around parking lots, searching for a familiar license plate and one gray van among a sea of gray vans.

My life wanderings sometimes happen by mistake.  I am distracted and too busy to pay attention to where Jesus is going.   Stopping to chatter with others and stare at merchandise, I  finally look up and find I’m alone.  My Savior has kept moving forward, and I’ve failed to stay by His side.  I’m the child lost in the Wal-Mart—the one they announce over the loudspeaker, “Would the parents of a small girl wearing a blue shirt please meet her at the service desk?”

That’s me sometimes.  I fail to keep up.  I get lost.

Other times, I am the one who walks away.  I take a wrong step, make a wrong decision.  I stumble and lose sight of the path.  Suddenly the way ahead seems uncertain and shrouded in darkness and I feel alone.  Desperately,  I search the faces of those in the crowd, hoping to catch a glimpse of Christ’s robe, His footsteps etched in the dust.  I listen for the sound of His voice.

We tell our children if they ever get lost to stay in one place and we will find them.  It’s true for our Savior.   He’s a seeker of wanderers, a finder of the missing, “for the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost”  Luke 19:10, NIV.   His heart is always for reconciliation and restoration.  Sitting down in the places I find myself, I cry out for help.  He finds where I have wandered, lifts me up into His arms and carries me home.

The next time I journey with Him, I grip God’s hand tightly and hover at His side because I know I’m “prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love” (Robinson).

Then there are the times when I’m lost, not because I’ve accidentally lost sight of God or wandered astray in a mistaken attempt at independence.  I’m lost because in this place where God has led me, it is dark and hard to see Him.  I know He’s there.  I know I am not abandoned.  I know this is His will for me.  But still it hurts.

Luke 19:10 expresses the heart of the Gospel, declaring that Christ “came to seek and to save the lost” and by lost here, it means “broken beyond repair.”

I’ve been that broken before.  Shattered into too many pieces to puzzle back together and glue into place.  With David, I’ve cried out, “My tears have been my food day and night” (Psalm 42:3, NIV).  I’ve plastered on Band-Aids and gauze in a sorry attempt to hide wounds and prevent infection.

Those bandages work sometimes temporarily, enough to make me think I’m whole and strong.  Enough for me not to sob out ugly, blotchy-faced, red-eyed tears in public during every worship song and in the middle of every conversation.

But, there’s a weak spot left in my heart where the wound still seeps underneath the skin.  One day I’m fine.  One second I’m okay.  Then words and circumstances penetrate the sores I’ve covered over.

I’m broken.  Broken beyond repair.

The same Savior who calls my wandering heart back to Him, accepts my empty-handed offerings when all I have to give is my heart in pieces.  Like King David, “my sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise (Psalm 51:17, NIV).

And God does something wonderfully mysterious in our brokenness when we place our shattered pieces at His feet.   His Son Jesus was sent “to bind up the brokenhearted . . . to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion–to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isaiah 61:1-3, NIV).

God binds up the brokenhearted.  He compresses our hemorrhaging hearts, applying pressure to stop the uncontrollable bleeding.  He brings deep and true healing in miraculous ways to a heart that was broken.  Broken beyond repair.

I get lost . . . a lot.  I’ve been broken and crushed.  But our Savior, with inexplicable love and abundant grace, left heaven and endured the cross to seek and save those of us who wander and heal and restore those of us who are broken.

And so this wanderer is found and so this broken one is made new.

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

Kaleidoscope Moment 2: An Eternal Perspective

On this day six years ago, my dad died of malignant melanoma.  I miss him, but I’m okay.

Mostly I miss him in unexpected moments throughout the year.  Like when I hear Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition (his favorite) or some jazz music.  Or when I visit the firehouse with my daughter on a field trip (he was a firefighter).  When I see a really good drummer (my dad was the best) or watch the military band concerts on evenings in the summer (he was an Army musician).

I miss him when we look through pictures and my daughters ask me all about him.  I’m sad because the last year of his life, he was so sick and really didn’t look the way I remember him best.  Those pictures are strange distortions of someone I knew and loved.

I miss him, but I’m okay.

His death was one of those kaleidoscope moments for me.  God took my perspective with the patterns I was used to seeing, and shifted it a little.  He showed me something beautiful.

Up until that moment, I had believed in heaven.  I heard the stories in Sunday School and saw the pictures in my Beginner’s Bible as a kid.  We sang songs at church about heaven and I believed what I sang.

But, when my dad died, heaven was suddenly real.  Not some hazy and nebulous concept we teach at church, but a real place where my dad now lived.  The outer shell that we buried in that casket was most definitely not him anymore.  Suddenly, when I envisioned what heaven would be like, I personally knew someone who was there–a face in the crowd that was waiting expectantly for me to join him.

My mom chose this verse for my dad’s funeral bulletin:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, NIV).

For the first time, God taught me how to have an eternal perspective.  I had a friend in college whose mother had a degenerative disease and was ever so slowly worsening.  It was difficult and devastating, but I have never in my life met anyone whose eyes were more firmly fixed on heaven than my friend.  She saw heaven as the soon-to-be home for her mom—a place where her mom would be healed and whole and hurting no longer.  She would talk about heaven in casual conversation and she didn’t care about earthly possessions, worldly success, or what other people thought of her.  Instead, her eyes were fixed on the unseen and the eternal.

I forget sometimes to keep an eternal perspective and then God nudges my heart and holds the kaleidoscope back up for me to see the pattern of beauty He created in the light of eternal hope.

I get angry about something stupid and forget that little petty annoyances mean nothing in the end.  I worry and fret about the small details of my life and forget that in the grand scheme of things, they really don’t matter. I long for a bigger home or at least new carpeting and forget that this world really isn’t my home and what I have here isn’t going to last.

Chris Tiegreen wrote:

When your feet are planted in heaven, you can quit chasing status in this world.  You can live with a godly sense of abandon because you aren’t attached to possessions or even your own life.  You can take risks, although nothing God calls us to do is really risky by eternal definitions.  You can follow Him without fear.

The other day I took my daughters to a festival we have in our town.  We toured the booths, saw some skits, watched the parade and then headed home.  When she got to the car and realized we weren’t paying $5 per child for a 2-minute pony ride, my daughter bawled.  She cried most of the way home, saying, “You don’t understand me or what I like and what is important to me.  You never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give me the things I want.  I’m not going to eat or clean my room or do anything at all until you take me back to ride the horses.”

We arrived home and she sat in time-out.  I checked my emails and other messages and found an updated post for the little girl named Kate McRae that I’ve been praying for.  She’s seven years old.  She has metastatic brain cancer.

My daughter climbed into my lap, face still a little red from tears, and asked me about the little girl whose picture was now on my computer screen.  I told her all about Kate.  How she’ll be losing her hair because of the treatments she has to have.  How she has to take medicine that makes her terribly sick so she can’t eat.  How she can’t be with her brother and sister and can’t go to school.  How she has to live far from home and stay in a hospital.  How her body is weakened by the radiation treatments to her brain.

Pony rides didn’t seem so important anymore.  God turned the kaleidoscope and changed my daughter’s heart by revealing a new perspective, an eternal one.

Paul wrote:

Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body (Philippians 3:17-21, NIV).

How would your life change if you lived as a citizen of heaven in the here and now of earth?

Would you be more bold in your faith?  Invest more time in worship and prayer?  Build into your relationships more?  Whine less about the things you have or don’t have?  Abandon the pursuit of earthly status in order to gain heavenly reward?  Spend less time worrying about the things you can’t control?  Love people more and be willing to overlook more of their faults?  Be more thankful?  Enjoy the little blessings in life?

So much of my attitude about life, so many of my everyday reactions are tainted because I lose that eternal perspective.  That’s why I need reminders like today.  Reminders that “this world is not my home; I’m just passing through.  My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.”

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

Kaleidoscope Moment

“Surely, God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.  The Lord, the Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation”
Isaiah 12:2-3, NIV

Imagine you’re on Jeopardy in a close match with your two co-contestants.  You choose your next category and see the Double Jeopardy sign.  This is your chance!  You can “risk it all, Alex” and go for a true Double Jeopardy, thereby leaving your opponents impossibly behind when you answer correctly.   Or, you can play it safe, and risk only a minor amount; you wouldn’t gain much, but you wouldn’t lose much either.

What would you do?  Are you a risk-taker or a play-it-safe kind of person?

I know what I would do.  I’d wager about $200 and pinch myself later if I knew the answer to the question.  That’s one reason you’ll never see me on Jeopardy.  That and the fact I know almost nothing about sports, pop culture,  geography and tons of other things.  Oh, and I freeze up under pressure.  I’m not really Jeopardy champion material.

Since I’m not a risk-taker, it frightens me when God asks me to take bold steps of faith and follow Him in obedience as we travel into the unknown.  It’s too . . . well, risky!  What if I get lost?  What if I don’t survive?  What if I heard God wrong?  What if I get embarrassed?  What if God doesn’t provide?  What if I’m not successful?

This is one of those “kaleidescope moments” in our faith walk.  These classic toys seem almost magical at times.  You hold a simple tube up to the light and the mosaic of colors inside shines and flashes in a beautiful pattern.  With one simple twist, the colors fall into a new pattern—still beautiful, but now so very different.

God sometimes needs to give our perspective a little twist, so that we see from His eyes.   The new pattern will be beautiful and oh so very different from what we’ve seen before.

Even when God calls us out into the unknown, even when He asks us to stop playing it safe, even when He asks us to follow obediently before the plan is revealed, even when He asks us to do something that sounds crazy, even when He asks us to do something different than everyone around us . . . even then, there really isn’t anything risky about following God.  That’s because no matter where God takes us, He walks by our side and His promises remain true.

We don’t have to take a risk.  Instead, we can enjoy what Kay Arthur calls “the rest of faith,” when we unite “the Word of God with faith for a particular situation.”   Psalm 91 promises us that “those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1, NIV).   That’s a shift in our perspective; a new way to look at God’s call on our lives.

Paul demonstrated this rest of faith while he was a prisoner on a ship at sea that was caught in a terrible storm.  “The next day, as gale-force winds continued to batter the ship, the crew began throwing the cargo overboard. The following day they even took some of the ship’s gear and threw it overboard.  The terrible storm raged for many days, blotting out the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone” (Acts 27:19-20, NIV).

Everyone had lost hope–except Paul.  He rested in faith.  God had told Paul previously that he would travel to Rome and preach Christ there.  No storm could prevent God from fulfilling His promise.  That night on the ship, God reconfirmed His plan by sending an angel who said “‘Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar!  What’s more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.”  Paul announced to those on the ship, “So take courage!  For I believe God.  It will be just as he said” (Acts 27: 24-25, NIV).

Even with these assurances from Paul, the sailors were frightened and tried to abandon ship.  Wouldn’t you?

When Paul confronted them and said, “You will all die unless the sailors stay aboard,” they amazingly listened to his assurances and “cut the ropes to the lifeboat and let it drift away.”  Later, Paul told these men who had not eaten for two weeks, to eat and strengthen themselves.   Scripture tells us, “Everyone was encouraged and began to eat” and then, in a true display of faith, “the crew lightened the ship further by throwing the cargo of wheat overboard” (Acts 27:30-37).

Paul’s confident faith was infectious.  The sailors were now without a lifeboat as an escape plan and without any food provisions to count on for the future.   All they had was God’s promise that they would be okay.

The good news is that God’s promises are enough.  Everyone on that ship survived the storm and made it safely to land just as God had said.

Like Paul, we have promises that we can rest in even when life seems risky.  We don’t need lifeboats or cargo to guarantee our safety through a storm.  God promises that He will go with us and never abandon us.  He promises to shelter us and set us high above our enemies.  He promises to provide for our needs and to give us all-sufficient grace.  He promises to strengthen us and renew us day by day.

These promises mean that life for those with faith is never really risky.  Instead, with a simple shift in our kaleidoscope and change in our perspective, God can help us experience the rest of faith by connecting His promises with our situation.  Then, we will “trust and not be afraid” (Isaiah 12:2, NIV).

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

They Will See God

Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.
Psalm 105:4, NIV

A few weeks ago, I waited in the line of moms and dads who were picking up their children from our church nursery.  I could see inside the room where my daughter was playing, but she couldn’t yet see me.  As the parents before me went into the room, my baby started craning her neck to see if she could find me in the crowd.  She looked up as each new adult entered the room and kept searching every face to see if it was mine.

Then she saw me.  I watched her face change from searching . . . searching . . . searching . . . to pure joy at finding Mom!!   She beamed.  She ran to me.  She practically knocked me over with her embrace.

Really, there are few moments as a mom more precious than seeing a little person so excited just to see your face.  To know that you are so very loved by someone sweet and innocent, even though you aren’t perfect or even the best.

That moment with my daughter made me think of how I should passionately and intently seek after God, for intimacy with Him and time in His presence, and for opportunities to give Him heartfelt adoration and praise and to show I love Him.  After all, He is perfect and the best!

I want to see God.  I want to do whatever it takes to have a closer relationship with Him.  Just like David, I can say, “My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!’  Your face, LORD, I will seek” (Psalm 27:8, NIV).

Sometimes all it takes to see God is persistently pursuing His presence.  Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (NIV).  Also in Psalm 27,  David said, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:13-14, NIV).

My daughter kept searching the crowd of parents in the church nursery and ultimately she did see me.  I came at the appointed time.  She was not abandoned and left alone.  All that she had to do was wait and not give up.

Don’t stop searching for God’s face in the midst of your busy life, your family stresses, your ministry concerns, your health crisis, your financial struggles, your job disappointments, your heart-wrenching fears.  Keep seeking with all Your heart.  You will see God.

But, actively seek.  Sometimes we wonder why we aren’t seeing God’s presence in our lives, but we are relegating Him to 10 minutes of our day as we skim through a devotional.  Or we think that listening to a sermon and some Christian radio counts as connecting with God.  Be willing to give God your time sacrificially.  Invite Him into every part of your day and immerse yourself in His Word so that you know Him more fully.

There are other times, though, that finding God takes more than just pursuing His presence.  Matthew 5:8 tells us, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (NIV).  Seeking God also means pursuing purity.

Earlier this week, I took a day off from writing.  It was partly out of necessity because the day was so hectic with appointments, work, family and ministry.  But, it was also because I needed a time out.  Someone did something in total innocence that frustrated me.  It wounded my ridiculous pride and I reacted with some pouting and whining and, yes, I admit–a private little tantrum.

It was sin and I knew it.  I needed some time to get right with God.

As much as I could, I spent the afternoon in God’s Word, letting Him sift my heart, reveal the sin and deal with it.   I seem to have these pitfalls, these consistent sins that trip me up, hindering and entangling me (Hebrews 12:1).  Do you have some of those—-lessons that you need to learn over and over and over and you wonder if you’ll ever get it right?

Unfortunately, these sins separate me from God and obscure His face.

Fortunately—or more accurately— amazingly, God extends abundant mercy and compassion when we confess our sins to Him and ask Him to make us clean. We are promised that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, NIV).

That day, I prayed through Psalm 51, which was David’s Psalm of repentance.  He had committed adultery with Bathsheba and then had her husband killed to hide the sin after she became pregnant.  Adultery.  Murder.  It seems like a lot for God to forgive, and yet God’s grace is big enough for any sin we lay at His feet.  Like David, I prayed, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10, NIV). I want a steadfast spirit, not my roller coaster reactions when I feel hurt or wronged.

Paul wrote, “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God” (2 Corinthians 7:1, NIV).   Purity of heart isn’t something we stumble on accidentally.  It’s not a spiritual gift that God gives to some people and not to others.  Instead, it means confessing sin and also actively pursuing purity and “perfecting holiness.”  It means asking Him to dig deep in my heart to root out the ugly sins that have such a deep hold on me, even when it hurts, even though it embarrasses me to face up to what’s really lurking in my soul.

It’s worth it– Seeing God’s face and knowing that–not only am I lighting up at finding Him in the crowd, but that He’s grinning at the sight of me washed clean and anticipating His presence.  I want a pure heart so that I can see God.  I don’t want to miss out on His presence, His peace, or His activity in my life.

Are you willing to do whatever it takes to see God?  Right now, that might just be holding on to hope with all your might.  Pursue His presence and keep waiting with expectation for God to show up in all His glory.  Do not give up.   Or, it might mean getting on your knees and asking Him to cleanse your heart and forgive you.  Then, with a pure heart, you will see God.

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

Enough

“And all of you is more than enough for all of me, for every thirst and every need.  You satisfy me with your love and all I have in you is more than enough.”
Jeremy Camp, Enough

Last summer at a pool party, confident after a few swimming lessons,  my daughter didn’t wait for her dad to put on her “floaties.”   Instead, she just hopped in the pool while my husband was helping her sister get ready.   She thought she could handle it—this preschool swimming class expert.  Unfortunately, she started to sink.  So, she freaked out and struggled.  That made it worse.

It took less than a second for my husband to reach in the pool and grab her up.  To her, that split second seemed to last forever.

On this very same day last week, I felt like I was sinking.  I freaked out.  I struggled.  That made it worse.  This brief moment in my life seemed to last forever, but God reached down and grabbed me up.

God blessed me that day with a  good friend who shared with me this verse: “Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach . . .  No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it” (Deut. 30:11, 14, NIV).   As I struggled to stay above water that day, different portions of that verse would encourage or challenge me and ultimately required me to make some changes.

Not Too Difficult

What God is asking us to do sometimes seems so hard and we want to quit or give up.  Yet, He encourages us to keep going because this is not too difficult or beyond our reach, not with Him helping us.  In our strength, we’ll absolutely sink.  We struggle and flail and cry out for help because we’re overwhelmed with our inability to control our situation.  Yet, as Paul writes “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13, NIV).  Isaiah writes: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10, NIV).  As long as we remain with Him, held up by His “righteous right hand,” we will not sink, no matter how unable we are to swim in our own strength and abilities.

Today

The Deuteronomy verse tells us, “Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult.”  My friend reminded me that I only need to focus on obeying God’s command for me today.  If I worry about ten years from now, that’ll be too difficult.  Even trying to get ahead of myself by one day can send me to the bottom of a pool!  I look at my month-long calendar and sometimes I lose my breath.  How will I get it all done?  Will I sleep this month?  If I can just make it until next month, I’ll be okay.  And then I flip the page of the calendar and feel overwhelmed again.

But, today and just for today, God is asking me to do things that are not too difficult.

What I Am Commanding You

After my friend shared this verse with me, I meditated on it all day.  I used it as a pep talk for myself: “You can do it.  It’s not too difficult.  You can get it all done and handle all this.”  Then, I realized that I really couldn’t do it.  This was actually far too difficult for me.  I was sinking, no question about it.

So then, what was I doing wrong?  I was trying to do what God was commanding me and then some.  God had told me I needed to quit my job and I had put Him off until it was more convenient for me to obey.  I can’t add to God’s commands and expect Him to hold me up out of the water.  In that case, it’s my own fault I’m sinking!  Walking in obedience brings me freedom and the promise that God will help me do everything He has asked of me.

There are some days when I am feeling great and doing fine, life is good, and then just for a brief moment I have that sinking feeling.  All three of my daughters suddenly need me and it must be right now!  The phone rings while my kids are crying and I’m trying to make dinner.  I’m tired from lack of sleep caring for a newborn or a sick child and I still have to function the next day.  One of my daughters is sick or struggling and I don’t know how to make it better.

I’m sinking.

At other times, it’s a season of feeling out of control and overwhelmed—When I’m pouring out everything in ministry and just want to give up at the lack of results.  When I’m working my hardest and don’t seem to make progress.  When the prayer requests of others seem so overwhelming.  When I am given a new project and I have no idea how to accomplish it.

I’m sinking.

The fact is, I’m simply not enough for all this.  I sometimes tell my daughters, “I only have two hands!!”  There are times I am telling God the same thing.  “God, I’ve got two hands and that’s it.  I’m not equipped enough, strong enough, trained enough, or experienced enough.”

I’m not, but He is.  With His help, and as long as I am focusing on today and walking in obedience with Him, He will strengthen me.   He will be “more than enough.”

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

What Does the Lord Require?

A few weeks ago, my husband had a day off work.  So, as a treat for me, he drove my older girls to school and picked them up when it was done.   When he arrived home at the end of their day, he asked me, “Do you realize you spend 1-1/2 hours of your day driving to school, waiting in line, driving home and then doing it all over again?”

Do I realize?  Oh yeah, do I ever!

There are parts of my every day that seem unimportant and yet time-intensive, of little value and yet essential for life, easily overlooked and yet totally overwhelming if left undone.

Like  doing dishes.  I washed every dish this morning and stood back to admire my empty sink and clean counters.  Then, I fed my children breakfast and lunch and baked some goodies for Bible Study.  I had happy children, hopefully happy ladies at Bible Study, and full sinks.

Sigh.

Last night I washed every piece of clothing, towel and bedding that exists in my home and placed them all neatly washed, dried and folded into everyone’s drawers.  But today, because we are not nudists, we put on new clothes that will need to be washed—-again.

Sigh.

I’m a task-oriented, to-do list making, productivity kind of person.  If I realize I’m not accomplishing enough of the items on my to-do list, I just add in the things I’ve done that weren’t on the list.  So what if I didn’t get around to scheduling that appointment.  I did do laundry, make lunches, exercise and answer emails.  Check, check, check, and check.  It makes all these little things seem more important somehow when they appear on my official list with a check mark next to them.

All of these daily tasks are totally essential to life.  They are acts of service for my family, who I love, and the opportunity for me to pour myself out to them every day, hopefully reflecting Christ in my humility and selflessness.

Or they are a reason to whine and complain and feel pretty unimportant in this world.MIaca

It just depends on my focus and my attitude.  Even the daily can become worship if I’m doing it for God.

Sometimes I watch my favorite Christian teachers speak to arenas full of women and read the bestselling books of my favorite authors and feel like my everyday acts of service seem unimpressive.  So, I washed dishes.  These ladies ministered to 10,000 people at one sitting.  I drove my kids to school.  That person spent 6 months in Asia helping orphans.

In Micah 6:6-8, the prophet writes:

With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

God doesn’t overlook our everyday.  He sees us at work when we do our best, not for earthly glory, but because we want to please Him.  He sees us at home as we make meals, place Band-Aids on scratches, and help with homework.  He sees us when we visit the nursing home even though it isn’t an “official” ministry in the church.  All of these are ways to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

And that is what He is asking us to do.  He isn’t look for elaborate offerings of fame and worldly success.  He is looking for cheerful obedience to serve where He has called us to serve at this moment in our lives.

The Bible is filled with the stories of prophets, kings, apostles, and angels, but in one brief moment in the Bible, we get a glimpse of a simple woman serving Christ in practical and essential ways.   Luke 8:1-3 says:

After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out;  Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means (NIV).

If you blinked while you read that, you might have missed her–Susanna, one of the women who helped support Jesus and his followers as they traveled all over preaching the gospel.  Was her ministry high profile?  Not at all.  Was she personally impacting the massive crowds that gathered around Jesus?  It’s unlikely they knew she existed.

Yet, she kept on ministering to those practical, oh-so-essential needs of her Savior.  It must have been hard work and often overlooked.  She may at times have struggled with being the one washing dishes while the disciples prayed with people in the crowd.  But she didn’t give up.  She just kept on serving.  It was an act of worship, this daily ministry of life and it is the same for us in our homes, in our churches, in our communities and at our jobs.

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

Doing a New Thing

Last week, I ate out at a restaurant with friends, something I do very infrequently.  Since I don’t go out often, I like to minimize my risk by ordering the same thing off the menu each time.  I love what I get.  I enjoy it every time.  If I change things up and order something different, I could hate it and my very special and rare dinner out would be ruined.

But, not wanting to miss out on something potentially new and exciting, I read through the entire menu and considered taking the huge life risk of ordering something — gasp!!! — different.  I asked the friends I was with what they were getting, thinking I may be inspired.

Then the waiter stared at me expectantly, pencil poised over paper, and asked me what I would like—and I ordered the “same old, same old” and enjoyed every bite of my dinner.

Then, on Sunday I got my hair cut.  There is something truly tempting about that moment when the hairdresser asks you, “Now, what are we going to do today?”  A little tiny part of me wants to say—color it, cut it, curl it, straighten it, layer it, angle it—whatever.  Make it new and fabulous!

But, I’m me.  So, I asked her just to trim the layers that were already there and generally clean up the haircut I already had.

I’m a creature of habit because habit brings me comfort.   Words like “new” and “improved” and “change” are anathema to me.  I prefer “traditional,” “classic” and “time-tested.”

Knowing this about me, imagine my struggle this year as I felt God’s clear and persistent nudging to quit my job—the same job I’ve had for 6-1/2 years.  I haven’t even just been doing the same kind of work that long, it’s been for the same company, working some of the same accounts, on the same computer program.

It was habit and comfort.  It was known and safe.  It was my “normal.”  And God said it was time to leave the old and do something new.  After months of stressing, praying and debating with God, I finally obeyed, and although I’m shaken up at the loss of my comfortable “known,” I am beginning to feel excited anticipation about walking with God into a new place.

In Scripture, God said, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18-19, NIV).

If we want to walk in intimacy with God, sometimes we have to leave the past in order to experience the “new thing” He’s doing.

Israel had to leave slavery in Egypt in order to journey to the Promised Land.

Jonah had to leave a successful career as a prophet to Israel in order to begin a nationwide revival in Nineveh.

The disciples had to leave their careers and families in order to follow Jesus when He gave them a simple command, “Come, follow me.”

When Jesus called the disciples, the 12 were quick to obey.  They hopped out of their fishing boats and put aside tax collecting paperwork in order to pursue a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to minister with and learn from our Savior in the flesh.

Israel and Jonah were a bit more reluctant about leaving the past for something new.  Israel whined and complained about it for 40 years.  Jonah hightailed it out of town in the opposite direction of his call.

Yet, God was unmistakably and miraculously at work, despite their fears and even disobedience.  The verse in Isaiah tells us “Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”  We will perceive God at work.  When He moves, His hand in our life will be unmistakable.  That’s what is so exciting!  All we have to do is obey His lead.  His job is to show up in all of His glory and power.

God may be calling you to something entirely different than me.  You may need to work part-time, work full-time, follow a new career, stay at home with your kids, have a baby, start a ministry, stop a ministry, read the Bible in a new way, start going to church, change your schedule around, stop watching television, change what music you listen to, begin a quiet time every day, initiate a friendship, separate from a friend who is a bad influence on you, eat better, begin exercising, move to another state . . .

No matter what God is calling you to, join Him!  Pack your bags and head out of Egypt.  Put aside the ministry you know so you can answer a new call.  Abandon your fishing nets in order to follow Christ.

You may see only wilderness or desert ahead of you, but don’t let that dissuade you.  God promises to make “a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

May the God of Hope

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit
Romans 15:13, NIV

Today, I walked close enough to my front garden to catch the strong perfume of hyacinth carried by the wind.  It was delicious and relaxing and full of hope.  Those early spring flowers remind me that spring and new life are coming and maybe even here!  That after months of dormancy, a seed buried deep within the frozen ground is now beautiful, colorful, fragrant and abundant.  They remind me that our God is the Creator—able to make something truly wonderful out of nothingness.

And all of these things give me hope. 

It means that I am never trapped or stuck in the relentlessness of my everyday because God brings abundant new life and seasons of blessing.  His mercies “are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23, NIV).

It means all of my time in the wildernesses of my faith when I saw no visible evidence of God’s plan for me were not wasted.  He has cultivated my heart and brought to life a beautiful “planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor” (Isaiah 61:3b, NIV).

It means that even when I am in an impossible situation, God, who created everything out of nothing, can create a rescue for me.

All day today, I’ve been meditating on and unpacking the truths in a verse that similarly brings me hope: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13, NIV).

May the God of Hope: Our God is a God of hope.  Even when we feel that there is no rescue for us and no way out, we can trust in Him to save us.  We are never stuck, abandoned, lost or beyond His reach because our God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20-21, NIV).  When circumstances are at their most impossible, we have hope because “nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37, NIV).

Fill you with all joy and peace: Because we have hope, we can walk through disaster with joy and peace.   In the book of Nehemiah, Ezra reads the book of the law to the people for the first time in years. They had returned from exile away from their temple and homeland and now faced the long process of rebuilding.  The people wept with remorse over lost time and out of true regret for turning away from God, but Nehemiah and Ezra reminded them that “the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10, NIV).

As you trust in Him:  My joy and peace come from my connection to God.  They aren’t fake or self-motivated.  I can’t wake up in the morning and determine in and of myself that “I’m going to be at peace today” or “today, I’m going to be joyful.”  Instead, I ask God to please fill me with joy and peace and to help me stay connected with Him every moment of that day, so that I don’t begin to replace joy and peace with discontent, worry, or shame.  God can keep me filled up only as I trust in Him.  When I trust in others, in circumstances or in myself, I will be disappointed and my faith shaken.  Instead, we must “trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).

So that you may overflow with hope: God doesn’t just fill us up for our benefit, but so that we can overflow for others.  He places us in community with other Christians so that we can journey together, encouraging one another and bringing hope to others when they need it.  He places us in the world so that we can offer hope to those who are hopeless.

Like the hyacinth in my garden, we are to let Christ manifest “through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.  For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:14-15, NASB).  We are like Christ in a perfume bottle!

By the power of the Holy Spirit: It is the Holy Spirit at work deep within us that allows us to be filled up to overflowing.  As Christians, the Holy Spirit is within us, constantly at work in our heart, and present as we face every life circumstance.  There is nothing in this life that we ever face alone and so we have hope, joy and peace.

I am always amazed by Paul and his prayers for others.  Most of the time when I pray for people, I ask God to meet their need, give them a job, heal their sickness, provide for their finances, direct their steps . . . it is always specific and practical.  These prayers are important and necessary, but I shouldn’t stop there.  The vast majority of Paul’s prayers for the churches in his letters were for spiritual blessings.  This verse in Romans 15:13 is just one example, in which he prays for hope, joy and peace and the power of the Holy Spirit at work in their lives.

So, today, I am taking my cue from Paul and praying for you:
Father God, I pray now for those reading this devotional.  Please let your Holy Spirit be at work in their lives, filling them to the point of overflowing with hope, joy and peace.  Help them know that whatever they are facing in life can be entrusted to You and that nothing at all is impossible with You, our Creator God.  You bring beauty and life out of darkness and dormancy.  Give them an excitement about Your work in their lives.  Help them live in joyful anticipation of what You are going to do next.
Amen.

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

A Matter of God

“We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you”
2 Chronicles 20:12, NIV

I am a contest-enterer, but only very rarely a contest-winner.  About one-and-a-half years ago, I participated in the adult summer reading program at our local library.  Every month that I read some books (only one of my most favorite things to do in life!), I could place my name in the hat for a prize drawing.  Then the day came when the librarian called me on the phone and said I had won.  I was ecstatic!  When I picked up my little trinket of a prize at the library, it didn’t even matter that it was only worth about $5.  I felt like I had won the lottery!

My friend, Andrea Anderson at Live With Laughter has been running a giveaway fundraiser to help her family raise money for their adoption and the drawing is today (03/17) at 6:00.  She’s giving away a personalized family tree painting done by a local artist and friend.  So, of course, I have entered.  But, since I rarely win, you should enter, too, because my being in the contest improves your odds!  I also enter the HGTV Dream Home Giveaway contest every year and this past month, I’ve been entering a contest daily to win a trip to England (one of my life dreams).

Even when I play board games, I usually lose, and I certainly lose if the game involves rolling the dice, having the highest card or getting the ice cream princess in Candy Land.  I think my kids like playing games with me because I don’t let them win, and yet they always win despite my best efforts.

Since today is St. Patrick’s Day I was thinking of how I am so very unlucky, but I am so very blessed.  I’m thankful that my life is not at all dependent on luck, but is instead dependent on God’s mercy, love, and strength.   The Psalmist told God, “My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me” (Psalm 31:15, NIV).  I can have full confidence that my times are in God’s hands–my every day, my moment by moment, all entrusted to Him.

In my devotional time recently, I’ve been reading 2 Chronicles, which is one of my most favorite books of the Bible.  There is a clear, unmistakable trend in this book about the kings of Judah and Israel.  Almost every one of the kings had a life-defining moment when the nation was surrounded by a massive army that was better-equipped and more experienced than they were.

Every time a king fought the enemy in his own strength, either by amassing a defensive force or by making treaties with other nations, he was defeated.  Yet, when a king turned to God and prayed for His intervention and help, he was miraculously saved.   Often, the enemy troops would become confused and fight amongst themselves or they would simply run away in terror without ever engaging in battle.

Luck had nothing to do with it.

One of my favorite examples is King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20.  Like many other kings, he faced a vast enemy army.  The Bible tells us, “Alarmed, Jehosaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah” (2 Chronicles 20:3).

He was alarmed.  He was emotionally distraught about this seemingly impossible situation.  All the circumstances told him that he was about to be defeated and his people slaughtered on the battlefield.

So, with all of his fear of certain defeat, Jehoshaphat turned it all over to God.  The whole nation fasted and then he prayed with them publicly.  In his prayer, he said, “For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us.  We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” (2 Chronicles 20:12, NIV).

Oooh, that verse sends chills up my spine.   In so many of our life situations we have no idea what to do.  We’ve worked everything out on paper and still come out short.  There is just no physical, tangible way for us to defeat the enemy we are facing.

Those are the very moments when we need to look to God, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2, NIV).

That’s what Jehoshaphat did and God answered his prayer, saying: “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army.  For the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15).  The next morning, instead of sending out his best troops against the enemy, Jehosphat “appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness” (2 Chronicles 20:21, NIV).  The singers lifted up their praises to God and the enemy was totally annihilated without Jehoshaphat’s army raising a spear.  All they had done was worship God.

Scripture tells us they named that battle site the Valley of Beracah or the Valley of Praise.   Ultimately, “the fear of God came upon all the kingdoms of the countries when they heard how the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel.  And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for His God had given him rest on every side”  (2 Chronicles 20:29-30, NIV).

Are you in a valley, surrounded by circumstances that will most certainly defeat you?  Your survival isn’t a matter of luck, it’s a matter of God, and our God is trustworthy, dependable, faithful and mighty.  Resolve to fix your eyes on God and not on your physical “reality.”  Resolve to transform your valley into a valley of praise.   That is when God is glorified and we find rest.

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King