Weekend Walk: 07/30/2011

Hiding the Word:

I did so great with my index cards and my verse meditation for the first two weeks and last week I struggled.  How is it going for you?  I realized on Thursday that I hadn’t really thought about my verse for the week much at all, so I made it my mission on Friday to pray it throughout the day.

Here’s the fresh verse for a new week.  You can choose your own, but I’d love to see what verse you chose!  Please share it with us!

I’m going to take two weeks and memorize a block of verses from Psalm 145.  This is the first half:

“The Lord is trustworthy in all He promises and faithful in all He does.
The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food at the proper time.
You open Your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.”
Psalm 145:13b-16

Weekend Rerun

The Lord is My Portion, originally published 03/10/2011

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Psalm 73:26 (NIV)

This morning, I was a woman with a plan.  I envisioned reaching new heights of productivity and speed, accomplishing my work goals for the day, getting in a quiet time, cleaning, exercising, checking off all of the phone calls and appointments on my to-do list—all with joy and energy.

And then.

Then, I used the last slices of bread for toast and lunches.  I used one of the last diapers to change my baby girl.   I pulled out the ingredients for my crockpot dinner and realized it’s pretty hard to make salsa chicken with tortillas when you actually don’t have any tortillas or cheese.

Change of plans.  I rushed around the house throwing into the diaper bag the supplies needed for a grocery store trip with children—goldfish crackers, notebook and crayons, books, juice.

Normally, I like to plan out my shopping trips the night before, pulling out all the coupons I think I’ll use and discarding ones that are 3 months out-of-date.  Then, I like to prepare my list while going about my day, making sure I’m not forgetting anything.

Not this time.  I grabbed my unorganized coupons, my car keys, my children, my bag of things to entertain them and off we went.  Shopping.  In the rain.  With sleepy children.  Without a list.

The worst part of this whole story is that I was just at the store yesterday.  I ran in just to get a gift and the milk that would help “tide me over” until my real shopping in two or three days.   And now I had to go back again the very next day.  I quietly prayed that none of the cashiers recognized me from yesterday as the crazy woman who can’t stay out of the Wal-Mart.

It’s one of my life dreams to shop just one time a week and that’s it.  Clearly, I’m not there yet.

But this impromptu shopping trip reminded me that time with God should never just be a once-a-week affair where we stock the shelves of our heart and live off the supplies for a while.

Instead, in the Lord’s Prayer, we ask Him to “give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11, NIV).

Today.  Not tomorrow or the next week.  Just for today, Lord, provide what I need.  In this moment, fill me up and sustain me.  Give me the encouragement and provision I need for the here and now in my life.

This daily dependence is something the Israelites had to learn in the wilderness between Egypt and The Promised Land.   In Numbers 11:5, they complained to Moses, “We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic, but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes.”

In Egypt, it was no big deal to swing by the farmer’s market for some fresh veggies and then pick up some fresh fish from the docks.

In the wilderness, however, they ate manna.  Lots and lots of manna.  It was bread from heaven, sweet, and miraculous.  God sent it every night, not so they could store it for the future, but so they could eat just enough for that day.  Exodus 16:21 says, ” Each morning everyone gathered as much as they needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away” (NIV).

At first, not all the Israelites obeyed God’s commands.  They tried to store some of the manna so they wouldn’t have to gather it every day.  Their goal was to make one shopping trip for the week, not daily excursions to the Wal-Mart.  But, the food they stored overnight rotted and was infested with worms.

Daily dependence on God.   It’s the overarching message of Scripture.

David wrote in Psalm 73:26:  “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (NIV).

Jeremiah wrote in Lamentations 3:24: “I say to myself,  ‘The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him'” (NIV)

God is our portion.  He is more than enough for us in every situation, but we need to depend on Him for His presence, His encouragement, His strength, His provision, and His guidance daily, and even more than that–second by second.

Sometimes I think that my planning or my productivity can be enough, that in my own strength and ability I can make it.  But, that’s just when I have a day like today, when all of my well-laid plans and my confidence in my self are destroyed.

All I can do is place my to-do list, my perfect plans, my work schedule, my bank account and bills, my kids all at His feet and ask Him to “be enough.  Lord, I am not enough for any of this, but You are my portion and the strength of my heart.  So, I depend on You today and You alone.”

Then tomorrow, I’ll go to Him again . . . and the next day  . . . and the day after that.  Because this Christian walk of ours is a daily journey of dependence on God.

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

True Confessions of a Promise-Breaker

Welcome to Friday’s post!  If you’re doing the Online Bible Study with us and you haven’t posted yet for this week, I hope you’ll take the time to click over and share your thoughts about Chapters 7 & 8.  Week 5 starts on Monday!

True Confessions of a Promise-Breaker

“God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?”
Numbers 23:19

Hi.  My name is Heather.  And I broke a promise to my daughter.

Let me explain.  For several years, we have taken our daughters to the performance that concludes our community’s summer children’s theater camp.  The costumes are amazing, the songs so cute they get stuck in your head for years to come (and years and years), and the scripts are funny.  Every year as we left the show, my girls quizzed me on how many years, months, days it would be before they were old enough for theater camp.

We’ve been on a 3-year-long countdown.

This year, we excitedly dropped off my oldest daughter, finally the right age for theater camp.  But my middle girl was sad.  She was still one year away from being old enough, so her countdown continued.  “When is it my turn?,” she whined to me as we left her big sister behind on that very first day.  “Next year,” I promised.

Only I found out there wouldn’t be a next year.  The leaders were stepping down and no one else agreed to take their place.  No leaders.  No theater camp.  The decision had already been made.

Now, normally I pad my promises to my kids to protect them and me from uncontrollable circumstances that could turn me into a liar.  I say a lot of, “If everything goes well . . . We’ll see . . . Maybe . . . I’ll try my best . . . Perhaps this or that . . . If the weather . . .”

But I hadn’t done that this time.  And so I had to answer the hurt accusations of a five-year-old girl, “But you promised . . . ”

We can promise and assure others, give our word and sign our name on the dotted line, but sometimes the unexpected waves of life crash down over our well-intended plans.  The rubble of hurt is all that remains.

But God.

Don’t you just love that in the midst of human inability and limitation we can say, “But God”?

Because even the best of us can’t stay true to our word sometimes, but God always keeps His promises.

There are no unforeseen events or circumstances beyond His control that change His mind or prevent His faithfulness. It is a basic tenet of His character.  The Psalmist wrote: “The Lord is trustworthy in all He promises and faithful in all He does” (Psalm 145:13).

There are times, maybe for you also, that I lift up my hurt face to my Heavenly Father and cry to Him, “But you promised  . . . ”

To be with me always, but I feel alone.

To provide for my needs, but I see no provision.

To take care of me, but as much as I cry out for help, my circumstances remain unchanged.

To be near me, to answer me when I call, to strengthen my feet as a deer, to turn my mourning into dancing . . .

You promised.

But it is then we must wait. “Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:3).  Not twiddle our thumbs in boredom waiting, but active waiting, prayerful waiting, do what we need to do in the meantime waiting, keeping watch waiting, pouring His Word into us more and more until our dry and cracked spirit is saturated with His promises to us waiting

We pray His word back to Him, trusting that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” and His character displayed time and again in the Bible remains constant and consistent here and now in the middle of my life.

We wait.  And He, ever faithful and true, does what He said He will do.

For more promises from Scripture, check out this beautiful site: http://www.365promises.com/

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.

Surprise!

All day long people were singing at her.  Smiling and singing.  They tickled her belly, kissed her cheek, hugged her, and said two magic words that she didn’t even understand, “Happy Birthday!”

At first, my now-two-year-old reacted to all this attention with nothing more than a puzzled expression.  By the afternoon of her second birthday, she smiled a sweetly confused grin when we scooped her up for birthday hugs and kisses.  After dinner, she enjoyed the visit from her grandparents, but it wasn’t until I brought out the birthday cupcakes and we sang to her that she really began to understand that this special day was about her.

As soon as I lit the candle, she knew what to do.  She started blowing at the air while I still stood across the room with her birthday cupcake in my hands.  And then after she was covered in icing and Mickey Mouse-shaped sprinkles, I brought out wrapped presents and gift bags.

Her face said it all.  “For me?”  She unwrapped each gift and immediately played with it, read the book, put the puzzle pieces in place, and fed the baby doll.

My little one had been surprised by joy.

How I love that age when the simple fact of a birthday is enough to bring laughter and excitement.  My older daughters now anticipate their big days all year long.  Within a week of turning six, my eldest began telling people she was, “Almost seven.”  I’ve heard all their big plans for birthday parties (despite being told that we’re skipping this year), and yet they plan anyway.

But for my baby girl, there was no anticipation.  She had no idea we were planning for her joy.  She was oblivious to me stashing presents in the closet.  She had no clue I wrapped them during her nap the day before the big day.  She did know that I made cupcakes (she has a sixth sense for finding cupcakes), but she didn’t see me decorate them or pop two candles onto the top of the one just for her.

During those final days before her birthday, her sisters and I were the excited ones.  We looked forward to showering her with special treats and signs of love, even more because we knew she wouldn’t be expecting it.

Matthew 7:11 says, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

When we’re feeling broken, just emptied out or filled with fear . . . when we look ahead to an uncertain future, not even knowing what tomorrow will look like for us . . . when we’ve been attacked into the ground, pounded on by trials and Satan and circumstances and one bad event after another . . .

. . . then we remember that God is at work in invisible ways, even when we cannot see His hand, His activity, or His plans.  He gives us the good gifts of salvation, His Holy Spirit, His peace, yes.  But even more, He pours out on us surprises of joy, presents of grace in the unexpected places, an oasis in the midst of our wilderness, and a shooting star of hope across a midnight black expanse of our future.

Angela Thomas in her book Do You Know Who I Am? wrote:

“there is always a hidden work of God.  When you think that God is distant or that maybe God has turned against you, I want you to remember that in the unseen God is plotting for your joy.  He is planning the redemption of your brokenness.”  Angela Thomas

Does it tickle you to think of God in heaven wrapping presents for you, sending down cupcakes with sprinkles just for you–when you least expect it and on a day that seems so ordinary or worse, filled with despair?

That’s what He did for Mary Magdalene, sitting at the tomb of her dead Savior, weeping for the loss of Him and the seeming loss of all He had promised.  In her sorrow, she had traveled to the tomb while it was still dark.  Perhaps she couldn’t sleep, so throwing back her blankets she had simply gotten up and started walking to the place of His burial.

But the stone was gone.  The tomb empty.  She called for the disciples and they searched through scraps of linen for any answer to the mystery of the missing Savior.

There was despair and confusion and hurt.  There was anger and defensiveness about grave robbers and defilers. It was a day that had started out bad enough and was quickly getting worse by the second.

Mary didn’t see Jesus “plotting for her joy.”  He had been at work in the hidden places, descending into hell and snatching the keys of death out of Satan’s hands.  He had risen on that third day and exited the tomb already, but she hadn’t seen any of that.

While God planned her surprise, she: “stood outside the tomb crying” (John 20:11).

It’s not until she sees Jesus herself—not even then, not even when she talks with Him, but only when He calls her by name—that she realizes the victory before her, the amazing miracle of resurrection.

The angels asked her why she was crying.  Jesus Himself asked the reason for her tears.  She cried because the brokenness was all she knew and the evidence of loss and grief was overbearingly present.  An empty tomb, grave clothes in a pile, Savior’s body gone.  That’s what she saw.

Isn’t that what we sometimes see, too?  We see here and now.  Bills due.  Relationships broken.  Uncertainty about the next day and the next.  Unanswered questions.  Danger for our kids.  Loss and mourning.  Difficult ministry.

We see the grave.

God sees the resurrection.

He’s your Father who loves you, who knows how to give you good gifts and is wrapping presents for you, rejoicing “over you with singing” (Zeph. 3:17), and working “for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”” (Rom. 8:28).

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

Online Bible Study, Week Four: Chapters 7 & 8

It’s Week 4 in our 8-week study of Priscilla Shirer’s Discerning the Voice of God!  Can you believe we’re about half-way through?

Even last week we had ladies introducing themselves to the group and continuing to post in previous weeks.  Please read back through their comments so you don’t miss anything.

My Thoughts

Life is like . . .”A box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.”

Well, maybe, but for many of us life seems more like standing in the woods with 20 paths to choose and only one way is the will of God.  You eeny, meeny, miney moe, cross your fingers, travel down a road and hope it’s the one God wanted you to choose.

Someone said to me this week, “I just want to make sure this is God’s will.”

Have you heard that?  Have you said that? About a job, who to marry, where to go to college and what to study, what car to buy, where to live, about a million choices you’ve had to make over time?

A few weeks ago, I wrote: “Sometimes we envision God’s will for our lives as a hit or miss discovery.  We occasionally stumble into God’s will and then other times trip right out of it.

When we worry and fret over God’s will in that way, we are saying that God is fickle and demanding, that He removes His love and favor at whim if we fail to choose the right answer in the multiple choice test of life.

As long as our hearts are set on obedience and the desire of our heart is to be in God’s will, we can trust the God who created communication to communicate His desires to us.”

Should we desire to do God’s will?  Most definitely.  Walking with Him is always the best place to be.  Are there things we can do to help us discern God’s will?  Sure.  Know the Word.  Seek Godly counsel.  Pray. And then trust Him.

On page 97, Priscilla Shirer writes:

David concluded Psalm 119:10 (NASB) with these words: “Do not let me wander from Your commandments.”  Notice that he puts the responsibility for staying in the will of God on God Himself.  He says, “You, God—please don’t let me wander from Your will!”  Our responsibility is to get to know God.  His is to keep us from wandering from His will for our lives.

That’s incredible freeing for me, to know that my job is to know Him; His job is to direct me.  We won’t just fall out of God’s will one day.  We actually have to climb out in purposeful disobedience.

Chapter Outlines:

Chapter Seven

On page 92, she writes, “He moves your relationship with Him from a mental one to an experiential one that reveals even more about Him.  As you move from knowing about God, to experiencing God, to knowing God, the more clearly you will discern His voice.”

She highlights over the course of both chapters several of God’s attributes revealed in His names:

  • Jehovah-Jireh, God our Provider, p. 92
  • Jehovah-Rohi, God our Shepherd, p. 93
  • El-Shaddai, the All-Sufficient God, p. 94
  • Jehovah-Shalom, God of Peace, p. 102

She notes on p. 95 that, “As hard as he (Satan) tries to imitate the voice of God, he will never sound exactly like the real thing; and the more intimate we are with God, the more quickly we’ll be able to tell who is really speaking.”

On p. 95, she challenges us to make sure we are not “voice hunting more than God hunting.”

Chapter Eight:

On p. 103, she notes that peace shouldn’t just “be a part of our lives; it is to rule in our lives.”  Having peace in a situation is a powerful way to discern God’s direction.

Not only that, but she reminds us that relational peace should help us decide what to do.  “Peaceable relationships are important to God.  Therefore, we can conclude that the Holy Spirit will not lead us to do anything that in any way hinders peace and unity in the body of Christ” (p. 105).

Your Thoughts:

  • What name of God is most precious to you right now and why?  (She gives some examples, but you don’t need to confine yourself to the names she chooses).
  • What do you think about the idea that “it is God’s responsibility to cause you to hear and recognize His voice”? (p. 98).
  • How does peace factor into how you make decisions?

    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.

Weekend Walk, 07/23/2011

The new post for the Online Bible Study will be up on Monday, so now is a great time to read over the comments and share your thoughts about Chapters 5 and 6.  I can’t wait to see what you have to say!

Hiding the Word:

My memory verse for this week:

“We know how much God loves us and we have put our trust in His love.”
1 John 4:16a (NLT)

If you’re learning a different verse, will you share it with us?  I hope you’re finding ways to make this verse-learning work for you.

Weekend Rerun: 

Explaining a Mystery, originally published 03/31/2011

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.

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

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

Where is the Whole World?

I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
Psalm 34:4

During my second pregnancy, I went happily to my 20-week ultrasound and learned we were having another girl (the joys of pink!) and that she was healthy and developing well.

Except she was small.  They said smaller than she should be and I’d need to go get a 3-D ultrasound at a specialized neonatal center.  But, not to worry, they were sure it was okay.  This was just to be safe.

One 3-D ultrasound later, the technician sent back the report.  She was healthy.  Good heart.  Good blood flow.  Organs just fine.  But she was small.  Too small.  It was probably okay, but just to be safe I had to go for weekly stress tests for the remainder of the pregnancy and some more ultrasounds.

Every stress test was fine.  She was moving (boy was she moving!) and she was growing, but not fast enough.  She was just too small.  But, no need to worry, they said, because she was probably just fine; it’s just that they needed to induce her a week early so they could figure out why she was so small (under 5 pounds they said) and help her grow outside the womb.

We packed a bag for the hospital and let the Pitocin get to work.  Induction was terrible; the worst of my three deliveries.  In the end, though, Lauren was born.  I didn’t have my glasses on.  I couldn’t see her.  Was she okay?  Was she too small?  Was she in danger or sick or worse?

My husband served as my eyes for me.  At first he said nothing; she was purple they told me later from the chord double-wrapped around her neck. But then she cried.  And my husband said, “She’s beautiful.  She’s perfect.”

The NICU pediatrician who had been on call to assist at the delivery of this at-risk baby peeked over the nurses’ shoulders and left the room without a word.  The nurse laid her on the scale.  She weighed 6 pounds 13 ounces, my one-week-early little one, too big for the preemie outfits we’d picked out for her.  God had brought her to us safe, healthy, and gorgeous and we praised Him, so tearfully thankful for His protection over our baby girl.

Between that first announcement that our baby was too small and the moment we saw her, we fought against fear.  My husband and I held hands and prayed for her each night.  We calmed our fears and shrugged off ultrasound results.  Then I’d sit at the next appointment and be told once again that she was just too small. All the anxiety we had kept at bay rushed in with renewed strength.

Someone asked me during that time, “You’re not freaked out about this, are you?”

I didn’t know.  Was I freaked out?  Was I okay?  It wasn’t the same from day to day or minute by minute.  I was fine.  I was scared.  I was trusting.  I was fearful.  I was relying on God.  I was unbelieving.

At that time, Tim Hughes was singing on the radio:
When all around is fading, and nothing seems to last
When each day is filled with sorrow
Still I know with all my heart
He’s got the whole world in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands
I fear no evil, for You are with me
Strong to deliver, mighty to save

The whole world is nestled in the safety of His hands.  My world that I saw every day.  The world of my unborn baby girl, whose somersaults I could only envision and whose face I couldn’t wait to see.  Yes, her world was in His hands, too, and so I had to trust her to His care.

Isaiah wrote: “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).

Held in His hands as I am, still there are so many reasons to tremble.

For bills and jobs and relationships, for school, health, my kids’ friendships, safety and their faith, for my daughter not getting lost, for school bus rides and mean girls, for conflict, for things I forgot to do, for the decisions I make as a mom and how often I mess it all up, for the future, for the unseen, for the nosebleed that I’ve blown up into a brain tumor, for what’s happening tomorrow and what’s happening ten years from now, for the divorces I’ve witnessed and how did it all happen anyway, for the things I said and the things I didn’t say.

But when I’ve lost my breath because of worry and fretted over a solution only to find no visible answer, nothing I can do, and no way to fix the problem or avert disaster, then I remember hope.

Oh yes, now I remember hope.

Fear says, “There is no way out of this.”
Hope says, “God is going to make a way.”

Fear tells me “You’ve messed this up so badly there’s nothing that can fix it.”
Hope says, “I have a Redeemer who can heal and restore even what is dead.”

Fear whispers, “What you can see is all there is and that’s not enough.”
Hope shouts, “The Lord created the universe with His words.  He can create something out of nothing.”

Fear argues, “You’ve been abandoned.  God doesn’t even care that you are under attack.”
Hope assures me, “You are held in His hand, carried through hardship by His open palm.”

This world, my life, the daily schedule, the care of my children, the bills and the doctor’s appointments, and all there is remains outside my control.  That’s why there is fear.  It’s ridiculous pride and foolish unbelief that makes me believe God can’t possibly care for me and that I could do better on my own.  So I worry because I’d like to control the uncontrollable.

Fear isn’t an enemy you defeat once and then mount on your wall like a trophy.  It’s a sneaky foe, inching it’s way into your life at the slightest provocation.  It creeps into your thoughts at night and asks to be your companion as 3:00 a.m. and then 4:00 ticks and tocks by on your nightstand alarm clock.

In the night as you rumple the covers with your constant turning, when the bill comes, when your child steps onto the school bus, when you sit in the doctor’s office, when the lawyer calls . . . remember hope.  It’s the ultimate weapon in this battle against fear.  We have hope because we’re in His hands and so is our whole world.  Our kids in His hands.  Our finances in His hands.  Our jobs, our marriages, our friendships, our ministries, our careers, our future—in His hands.

We say with the Psalmist, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4).

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

Well-Hunting in the Desert

“Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs”
(Isaiah 35:6-7).

When we first moved into this house, we quickly discovered something unnoticed during the walk-through or inspection.  The water smelled like rotten eggs. As a result, I was brushing my teeth with bottled water and holding my breath while taking a shower.

Like any good 21st century homeowners, we Google-searched our way into solutions and scoured the Internet for answers.  Which we found.  Simply open the top of our well and shock the water with a $1 jug of bleach.

Sounded easy.  Until we realized that somewhere on this half acre of land is the top to a well that we could not find.  We knew it had to be there.  We had running water and didn’t pay the city for it.  We consulted drawings of our property and sheepishly hinted to the water specialist (whom we had to call since we couldn’t fix the stinky water ourselves, having not found the well), that we really would like to know where the well was hidden on this land of ours.  He wasn’t helpful.

We have a guess as to where it might be, but we are in some ways still well-hunters, searching for the source of our water, assuming its presence without seeing it ourselves.

I’ve been well-hunting recently in real life, too.  Like Hagar, wandering in the wilderness, running low on provisions, hopelessly lost and not able to go back and yet not certain where to go instead. Out there in her wilderness, “God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water” (Genesis 21:19).

“Open my eyes,” I’ve prayed, “to the well of your provision, to the fountain of Your presence, to the water of sustenance and hope. I want to see the well You have provided in this desert place.”

Because I’m parched and yet I feel like I’m drowning.

It’s so often God’s way to bring water and with it so much more to those in His care.

To Hagar, a well in the desert that she hadn’t seen before.

To Elijah, “bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water” to sustain him on a 40-day walk to the Mountain of God (1 Kings 19:6).

To the Israelites who complained, “there is no water to drink!,” He brought forth water from rock.

For the redeemed, He promises that “water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs” (Isaiah 35:6-7).

To the woman sitting next to a well with a jar on her shoulder, living water drawn up even without a bucket (John 4:10).

Out of nothing, amidst wilderness and desert, even burning sand, He brings water that heals, sustains, provides, and gives life eternal.  He brings it in abundance with bubbling springs, streams filled so quickly that they are pooling, water we could drink that would satisfy us forever.  All out of nothing.

We could spend our lives sitting by clear-running streams of water, never risking the travel through the valley.  We could pitch our tents there by the known source of water and never lose sight of the well, never grow uncomfortable, never walk far enough away to be uncertain of provision, never venture one step into the wilderness.

But we’d never make it to the Mountain of God like Elijah and the Israelites.  Never know the God Who Sees like Hagar.  Never know the Giver of Living Water like the woman at the well.

So, as we scan the horizon and see only barren land, rocks of gray and dusty earth cracked from lack of rain, we search for the well.  It’s there.  Maybe hidden now so that we cannot see, but God works in the hidden places to bring us provision at the exact moment of our need.

David searched for the well in the desert.  He wrote:

“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).

and

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:1-2)

David, my fellow well-hunter, knew the best way to find the hidden water, even when his soul was downcast, even when he thirsted for God’s presence like a deer dehydrated after too long a journey away from the stream.

  • Put your hope in God.
  • Praise Him even in sorrow.
  • Remember what God has done.

He says: Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.  My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you (Psalm 42:5-6).

Years ago, Caedmon’s Call sang these words: “Down in the valley, dying of thirst.  Down in the valley, it seems that I’m at my worst.  My consolation is that You baptize this earth when I’m down in the valley.  Valleys fill first.”

Valleys fill first, my friend.  When God brings the water, when He rains down “showers of blessing” in their season (Ezekiel 34:26), the valley is where you will want to be so that you can fully receive all that He pours over your head.

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.

Online Bible Study: Week 3, Chapters 5 and 6

Ladies, we’re already in our third week of our time together studying Prisiclla Shirer’s Discerning the Voice of God.  It’s been a blessing to walk this journey with you!

If you haven’t read through all the comments on Week Two, please take the time to do that.  Your thoughts have been a blessing and encouragement to me!  Thanks for continuing to share.

Last week, I announced that we were reaching 100 posts on this devotional blog and as a way to celebrate and to say thank you, I was hosting a giveaway.  Anyone who commented from then up through Sunday, 0717, at midnight was entered into the drawing (my comments were excluded).

So, our three winners, selected using random.org, are:

Congratulations! Now on to this week’s study!

My Thoughts:

Almost two weeks ago, I was burdened to be more purposeful about Scripture memory rather than just memorizing the Awana verses with my kids, which is good, but not enough. Not only that, but it seemed like God wanted me to invite you to come along on this verse-learning journey with me.

Finally, despite my numerous objections, I agreed to begin weekend posts where I share in a new Scripture verse that I’d be memorizing for the week and ask you to participate, maybe learning your own verse instead.  In all my “wisdom,” though, I thought it would make sense to start something new after the 100th post and not before.  So, I agreed to do what God said, but only when I was good and ready.

As long as I put it off, though, I was unsettled and uncomfortable, like God was talking and I was purposely covering my ears and averting my eyes to ignore Him.  I gave in.  I wrote the first post about Scripture memory just over a week ago.

For those who have already delved into Chapter 5 of our book, you’ll know that on page 73, she says:

“If we don’t consciously attempt to combat those messages by saturating our minds with Scripture, our souls will be conformed to the world’s standards instead of God’s.  The more Scripture you have hidden in your heart, the more opportunity the Holy Spirit will have to bring it instantly to your mind to verify how you should proceed.”

When I read that this weekend (yes, a week after I wrote about how we need to memorize Scripture), I almost dropped my book into my cup of hot tea.  (If it had fit in the cup, the book certainly would have gone in.)

This week we read in Chapter 5 that God’s voice is verifiable and that His Word “isn’t just an old book that has a lot of theology for us to digest; it’s the living Word of God” (p. 74).  His voice is also persistent as it says in Chapter 6.  “He keeps at it.  He orders our circumstances, so that they relentlessly bombard our thoughts and hearts with His message until we are convinced of its authenticity” (p. 79). I certainly was reminded this week of the verifiability and persistence of God’s voice, as well as the blessing that comes with obedience.

The Outline

Chapter 5: A Verifiable Voice

I loved this chapter and its emphasis on the relevancy of Scripture to our everyday life situations.  God’s Word is alive; it’s meaningful; it’s powerful now in your life and in mine.

And yet we’re busy, oh so busy.  While I think there’s a certain amount of schedule-trimming we can do, we can’t cut everything from our agenda.  If you have a job or a house, if you serve in the church or community, if you have parents, friends, a husband, if you have kids, then you’re probably busy.

On page 73, though, Priscilla Shirer makes meditating on the Word of God accessible.  One verse a week.  Tape it to your mirror, in your car, maybe on your stove like me.  Put it where you’ll see it and read it over and over and over.  Pray it.  Live it.  Think about it while you stir the noodles on the stove or do your hair before work.  Let God minister to you through that verse.

As I said above, we’ve already begun picking one verse a week in this very blog, so I hope you’ll join with me. This isn’t to give us one more thing “to do,” but because the purposeful meditation on Scripture helps us not to sin, helps us to discern His will, helps us to fight the Enemy, helps us make decisions, and helps encourage us on the dark days.

Chapter 6: A Persistent Voice

On page 78, she directs us to pay attention to consistent messages—like when you hear the same thing in the sermon, Sunday School, in the book you’re reading, in your devotional and on the radio.  Then, it’s time to perk up your spiritual ears because God’s got something to say.

Also on page 78, she quotes Revelation 3:20 (“Look! Here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meals as friends.”  She importantly notes that this was originally written to lukewarm Christ-followers, not unbelievers in need of salvation.  Christ wanted more of them and He was going to keep on a-knocking until they opened the door.

Oh my, the rest of this chapter for me was just one big underlined, highlighted, exclamation mark fest.  So, rather than take up all this space writing out my thoughts, I’ll share some of my favorite quotes with you:

  • “Scripture is full of people whose most life-changing encounters with the Lord occurred while they were in places they didn’t want to be” (p. 81).
  •  “Even difficult life circumstances are being used to give us a clear reception to hear His voice” (p. 82)
  • “There’s something in your current situation that God is going to use to draw you closer to Him so He can tell you something about Himself and His plan for your life.  no matter what tight spot you may find yourself in, ask God to open your ears to what He is saying in your circumstances” (p. 83)
  • “Rather than wishing you were married instead of single, in full-time ministry instead of corporate America, attending a big church instead of a small one, married to a saved spouse instead of an unsaved one, listen for what God is saying in your circumstances right now.  Don’t waste your time wishing; get busy looking and listening.  Ask the Lord to open your ears to hear what He is saying to you right where you are” (p. 84).
  • “One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was ‘Do the next thing'” (Elisabeth Elliott, p. 85).
  • “God is the God of right now.  He doesn’t want us to regret yesterday or worry about tomorrow.  He wants us to focus on what He is saying to us and putting in front of us right now.  The Enemy’s voice will focus on the past and the future, but the voice of our God will focus on today.  God’s voice tells us what we can do now.  Satan’s voice tells us what we could do ‘if only'” (p. 85).

Your Thoughts:

I hope you loved these two chapters as much as I did and I also hope you’ll post a comment here to let us know your thoughts on these topics.  Short or long, it doesn’t matter.  We want to hear what you have to say!

Here are some questions to get the conversation started.  I’m asking a lot this week, so answer however many you like:

  • Have you found a way of meditating on Scripture that works for you? If so, please share or maybe share something new your trying out.
  • How have you seen how the Holy Spirit change your “taste buds” over time? (p. 69).
  • Tell how God has used Scripture to help you make a very practical life decision (as she did on p. 67).
  • Tell how God has used difficult life circumstances or a place you didn’t want to be to give you “clear reception to hear His voice” (p. 82).
  • What is the “next thing” that you think God is asking you to do? (p. 85).
  • Is there anything you need to stop wishing and waiting for in order to do what God has asked you to do right now? (p. 85-86).
  • As always, I’d love to hear your favorite quotes and verses from this chapter!!!  Don’t worry if your favorites are the same as mine; please share them anyway!

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

Weekend Walk: 07/16/2011

Welcome to the weekend walk!

We hit 100 posts on this blog on Friday, and now we’re celebrating with a giveaway.  Don’t forget to enter by commenting anywhere on this website by midnight on Sunday, 7/17.  I’ll announce the winners in Monday’s post!

If you’re doing the online Bible study with us, please take time to comment on this week’s post before our new reading begins on Monday.

Hiding the Word:

How did your first week of Scripture memory go?  I copied my verse onto an index card, said it aloud several times and set it on my stove so I’d read it all week.  I hope you found a method that worked for you!

Here’s my verse for the new week:

Psalm 34:4
“I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.”

If you are choosing a different verse, please share it with us in this space!

I’m slowly adding to our collection of verses on this website.  I hope they are a blessing to you.

The Weekend Rerun:

Tyranny of the Urgent (Originally published on 2/19/2011)

Charles Hummel wrote about how to be free from the “Tyranny of the Urgent,” and I could probably use some of those tips just about now.  My windows are open, it’s beautiful outside and instead of enjoying a relaxing day, I’m rushing to meet demands and fulfill requests, mostly for people under 4 feet tall.

How about you?  Do you feel like you are pushed from one urgent thing to another, always rushed, always breathless?  When my husband asks me in the evenings or weekends, “What do you want to do?,” I always answer with the list of things I have to do.  I have to do the laundry and the dishes, mop the floor, answer some emails, send a note, finish some work . . .

This morning, I was reading Psalm 127 and it made me laugh.  All you moms of young children might enjoy a giggle, too:

In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Children are a heritage from the LORD,
offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them (Psalm 127:2-3, MSG).

Are you laughing?  I just find it so perfect that God promises rest and sleep and then in the very next verse reminds us that “Children are a heritage from the Lord.”  Some days we just need the reminder that these precious little people who don’t let us sleep in and think that Mom sitting down for 2 minutes is a problem best rectified by asking for her help every 10 seconds–yes, these little children are a blessing from God.

Even those of you who don’t have young children at home probably feel the burdens of numerous demands placed on your shoulders.  Living in this world requires us to meet certain demands and expectations.  We can’t simply shrug off all of our responsibilities.  We have school schedules to submit to, work deadlines to meet, ministry demands to fulfill, and families to care for.

It reminds me of Martha in Luke 10. She’s rushing around, totally stressed, trying to provide the best hospitality for her guests, Jesus and His followers.  It says that, “Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.”   She was doing what she “had to” do.

What blesses me about this is that Jesus looked right at her and said, “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,  but few things are needed—or indeed only one” (Luke 10:41-42, NIV).

God can look straight into my heart many times every day and say, “Heather, Heather, you are worried and upset about so many things, but only one thing really matters–your relationship with Me.”

In the middle of all of the “musts,” “have-to’s,” and “shoulds” on our to-do lists, it’s easy for time with God either not to fit into our highly scheduled lives at all or for it make it on the list just as another “have-to.”

God doesn’t want to be another item on our to-do list.  He doesn’t keep a running tab in heaven of how many minutes you spent on your quiet time today or whether or not you are behind on your Bible reading plan.  He simply desires intimacy with you.  He calls you to come away to spend time with Him, but He does it by wooing us and offering us grace and rest in His presence, not by making demands on us.

As it says in Matthew 11:28-30:

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly (MSG).

This world forces its rhythms onto us, but God offers to teach us the “unforced rhythms of grace.”   Accept His grace.  You are loved and valued by Him whether or not your house is spotless, your kids practiced the piano every day this week, the laundry is folded neatly and put away, your work is perfect and your desk organized.  His grace sets you free from the “tyranny of the urgent” and lets you “live freely and lightly” instead.

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

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

I’m Not a Boy

Happy 100th post everyone!  I’m so thankful that through God’s grace we have made it this far and I pray that He will bless us with much more time together in the days ahead.

To celebrate with you and as a way to say thanks to you for reading these devotionals, I’m hosting a giveaway!  I hope you’ll post a comment anywhere on this website by Sunday, 07/17/2011 at midnight, and I’ll announce the winners in Monday’s post.

Now, onto today’s devotional:

I’m not a boy.
I’m not a good dancer.  I’m not easily offended.  I’m not a blonde or a red-head.
I’m not tall.
I’m not artistic.  I’m not quick to cry.
I’m not usually a fan of “chick flicks.”  I’m not much of a TV watcher.
I’m not from a small family.
I’m not a quick decision maker.
I’m not an extrovert.  I’m not athletic.  I’m not fond of “outside.”

We all define ourselves by lists of “I ams” and “I am nots.”

“Are you a Christian?”  I am.
“Are you fond of sports?”  I am not.

Is it any wonder that God has a list, too?  His “ams” and “am nots” through Scripture establish His character and give us reliable assurances in times of trouble.

We rest in safety because we know He is “I am.”

It’s the most powerful declaration of God’s identity in Scripture, when He tells Moses His name: “I AM WHO I AM . . .This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation” (Exodus 3:14, 15).

My Bible notes that His name could also be read as: “I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE.”

He is I am and I will be.  He is eternal.  He has existed before our human history began and He has walked through the entirety of our time on this planet and will still remain forever.

So, we can trust Him.  We can place in His capable hands all that frightens us because He knows where we have come from and where we are headed.

It’s more than that.  He tells us:

  • “I am with you” (Genesis 26:24).
  • “I am God Almighty” (Genesis 35:11).
  • “I am the LORD, who heals you” (Exodus 15:26).
  • “I am the LORD your God” (Exodus 16:12).
  • “I, the LORD your God, am holy” (Leviticus 19:2).
  • “For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isaiah 43:3).
  • “I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God” (Isaiah 45:5).
  • “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” (Isaiah 48:17).
  • “I am the LORD your God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—the Lord Almighty is His name” (Isaiah 51:15).

Can you read through this list of what God says about Himself, His “I ams” and not be in awe, not be filled with the desire to worship, not be comforted?

He is with you, there in the places of hurt and despair.  He heals you.  He is holy.  He is your Savior, pulling you out of the pit and redeeming you through the blood of His Son.  He is the only God.  He directs our steps.  He is Lord Almighty, in control of all creation, including the circumstances you find yourself in.

Praise God!

He doesn’t stop there, though.  He also has “am nots.”  Just as powerful, these are declarations of His dominion over all the fake gods that vie for our worship.

In Daniel 2:11, the magicians and advisers of King Nebuchadnezzar whine that no one can possibly tell the king what he dreamt except the gods, and “they do not live among humans.”

Not our God.  He made His dwelling among His people, directing them to “make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8).  He abandoned the glories of heaven and “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14).

He can say, “I am not distant from you.”

In Psalm 135:15-18, the Psalmist writes:

The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by the hands of men.  They have mouths, but cannot speak; eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear nor is the breath in their mouths.

Not our God.

Our God is the Shepherd who speaks to His sheep (John 10:27).  He is the God who sees us (Genesis 16:13) and hears our voices when we call to Him (Psalm 5:3).

He can say, “I am not ignorant of your need .”

And our God “is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19).

Colin Urquhart wrote, “God is the God of promise.  He keeps His word even when that seems impossible.”

He can say, “I am not a promise-breaker.”

It may feel difficult at times to believe in God’s nearness, responsiveness, concern, love and faithfulness because we are immersed in a pit of circumstances that blocks our view of Him.  And yet, He tells us all the things He is and all the things He is not and it is that Scriptural assurance of His character to which we cling.

We can rest in safety knowing that He is I AM.  We can rest in safety knowing all that He is not.

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