God, Are You Crying?

“In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them.
In his love and mercy he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old”

(Isaiah 63:9).

It was my third pregnancy and I sat across from my midwife at my 37-week check-up.  “I don’t think the baby has turned,” I told her.  “I think she’s still breach.”

I saw her face change from “easy-breezy check-up” to “let’s investigate this issue”.  She expertly prodded my massive pregnant belly with her hands and then popped the baby up on the ultrasound machine to be sure.  Breach baby.  Thirty-seven weeks.

Maybe the doctor will turn her, I thought?  Maybe she’ll turn herself (I hoped)?  Anything sounded good if I could avoid a C-section.

She said, “I’ll call you.  I need to tell the doctor what’s going on, but I’d start preparing for surgery.”

I trusted her.  During both of my other pregnancies, she had cared for me frequently.  She was a strikingly lovely woman, an inside-out kind of beauty, so open and full of joy.  Her hair was just beginning to grow back into small bouncy curls after a fight with breast cancer years before and it was so like her to pour herself out for others even during chemo treatments and cancer recovery.

Just as she promised, she called me later that day.  She treated me like I was the only patient in the world, taking more than 20 minutes to tell me how serious the baby’s position was because she was sitting on her umbilical cord.  How turning the baby could kill her and if I went into labor on my own, she’d probably suffocate.

C-section it was.

But she gave me great reassurance, how good the doctor was, how she had seen him work and knew he would take good care of me and I would heal well.  “Don’t be afraid,” she said.

That was the last time I talked to her.

The doctor delivered my baby via C-section and he was expert and wonderful and my daughter was healthy and beautiful and safe.  When I returned for my check-up weeks later, they told me that my midwife’s breast cancer had returned and she was starting treatments again.

Any time I had an appointment at the office over the last 3 years, I asked about her.  She popped into my head periodically, and I prayed for her and we prayed in my small group, as well.

She passed away this weekend.

It’s a part of the human condition on this broken planet to grieve.  I am sad for her struggle, for years and years of fighting, for losing the battle to breast cancer, for her pain, for those who worked with her, for her dear friends, and most of all for her family and her two children who watched their mother fight and then die.

This world of sorrow isn’t a place of God’s design.  It’s the mess mankind made through disobedience and sin, ushering in death.  One day, we have the opportunity to see what God’s perfect design is really like.  Heaven is the ideal place, where death, crying, pain, and disease have no place because sin has no place.

But here we are, facing sorrows in the here and now because good people die, people of faith hurt, babies don’t make it, children are abused.

When Jesus stood outside of Lazarus’s tomb, he was surrounded by mourners in the midst of their own loss.  Martha was weeping.  Mary was weeping.  The entire crowd was weeping.

My commentary tells me they weren’t just sniffling quietly into their tissues in the good old Western style.  They were “wailing” (klaiontas).

Seeing their distress, Jesus “was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled . . . Jesus wept” (John 11:33, 35).

The crowd took it as a sign of Jesus’s own grief over losing a great friend and said, “See how he loved him!”

But is that why Jesus cried on the edge of Lazarus’s tomb?  He wasn’t wailing in the same way they were; he was quietly shedding tears (edakrysen).john11

Anyway, what was there for him to mourn?  He knew he could raise Lazarus from the dead.  In fact, Jesus was just seconds away from doing just that and watching Lazarus stumble out of the tomb still wrapped up in his grave clothes.

It couldn’t have been his own grief.

It had to be the sadness at the sorrow of others.  That’s why he was “deeply moved” and “greatly troubled,” not when he knew Lazarus was dead or when Mary and Martha confronted him over it, but when he heard “her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping” (John 11:33).

He felt sorrow over their sorrow, sadness over their sadness, and compassion because they experienced death, loss, the grave, pain, and sickness.

In the same way, when Jesus saw a widow following behind the coffin of her only son, “He had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep'”  (Luke 7:13) before touching her son’s body and raising him from the dead.

This is the Savior we serve, who saw the sorrow of death, who faced it Himself, and who comforts us when life is hard, when loved ones die, when we grieve the loss of people, the loss of hope, and the loss of dreams.

Even though I know He doesn’t always intervene with miracles, resurrecting in the places we grieve, it’s somehow helpful to know He isn’t ignoring us either.  Jesus isn’t cold-hearted, looking down stone-faced and unmoved by our sorrow.

Instead, when we’re hurting, He’s moved by compassion for us and ministering to us with His Spirit.  He’s comforting those who mourn (Matthew 5:4).

I use the Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament Edition, edited by John Walvoord and Roy Zuck.

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 © 2012 Heather King

Weekend Walk, 04/28/2012

Hiding the Word:

We had plans. Big plans.

It was pirate weekend in Yorktown Virginia and the annual book sale at our public library.  Add in my niece singing the lead role in an opera, church, and a birthday party and you had a full weekend.

It was inevitable, I suppose, that after two of my daughters spent time on the couch this week with fever and vomiting that the third would get sick, as well.  I sent her to bed Friday night with the beginnings of a fever.

This morning, she emerged looking bedraggled and ill and asking, “Do you think I’m better yet?”

Her skin, fire to the touch, clearly said otherwise, but I humored her with a thermometer test.  103 degrees.  “No, babe,” I said, “you’re pretty sick.”

Then there were the tears of disappointment, trading in a weekend of fun for a weekend of ginger ale and napping.

It’s one of those lessons you just can’t learn often enough in this life–that you can plan and schedule and postulate, but God has the prerogative to interrupt your agenda and alter your plotted course at any time.

Even when you know it’s for the best, that His design for you is better than you can imagine and what ultimately comes to pass is for your good, still it’s nonetheless disappointing in the moment.

For us, these interruptions are sometimes minor losses and daily annoyances; sometimes they’re the source of great sorrow and bitter grieving.

Regardless of their magnitude, we can all learn to pray as Jesus did, kneeling in the garden and submitting His will to the Father’s.

“Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42b).

It’s the verse for this week, to contemplate and memorize.  Maybe it seems short, but it’s truth is powerful and perhaps a little painful.

Weekend Rerun:

He Rested

Originally Posted on April 26, 2011

“And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done”
(Genesis 2:3 ,NIV).

For months, one week in April glared off my calendar menacingly.  My husband and I focused all of our attention and energy on getting to that week and getting through that week—appointments, birthday parties, wedding, special church services, meetings, and holiday activities piled on top of our normal schedule.

I had the individual events in my calendar circled in different colors multiple times so that I wouldn’t overlook any one of them.   When people asked us about May, our eyes glazed over uncomprehendingly.  May?  What’s May?  As far as we were concerned, finishing April was the goal.

I’m sure you have weeks on your calendar that look like that, too, an overload of busyness, and you hold your breath in anticipation of it, stress when you think about it, and dream about making it through.

But then our week was done.  The last event finished.  We survived.  We drove home.  We rested.

It sounds so easy, really, to say “rest,” and yet for me rest takes great effort.

I’m physically incapable of napping.  Instead of sleeping, I lie awake thinking about all the things I should be doing instead of sleeping.  By the time I finally give up and throw back the covers in defeat, I’m frantic about the wasted time and move faster through my to-do list to make up for it.

I feel guilty for leisure, embarrassed by free time, and apologetic for fun.

Accepting help or taking a break feels like failure and an admission of weakness.

There’s something else at work here beyond just an addiction to adrenaline.  Oh, how I hate for it to be true, and yet digging down deeply enough reveals its ugly presence—-pride.  Truly, it feels good to be needed.  It feels important to be so busy.

When I run around in a breathless pace, doing, doing, doing all the time, I act as if the world depends on me to function, as if me sitting down for 15 minutes would create cosmic meltdown.

And that’s why God, from the very first week of creation, instituted a Sabbath rest.  It wasn’t for His benefit, as if the Almighty God who created a sun, moon, and planet with the power of His words grew weary and needed to sleep.  No, the Sabbath was not for God.  Instead, Jesus “said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man” (Mark 2:27).

He created a day of rest for you and me.  It’s a reminder that the universe can exist without our involvement and labor.  It’s a re-ordering of our perspective, so that we remember it is God who is essential and not us.

So often, we forget that our jobs, our families, our ministries, our relationships, our everything depend not on our ability, but on God’s power.
We stress about meetings because we think everything relies on how well we present ourselves.
We plot out conversations because we think the outcome depends on the words we choose.

We think.  We plan.  We do.  We fix.  We busy ourselves.  We worry.  We analyze.  We lose sleep.

God knows the pride that burrows itself into our hearts; the tentacles it wraps around us as we seek fulfillment in accomplishments, in tasks completed, in people depending on us.  I’ve written it before and yet need the reminder of my own words:

I’ve seen many women engage in Busyness Battles with each other.   We ask each other what seems like such a simple question, such as “What have you been up to lately?” or “Have you been busy?”  Then, like a Wild West shootout, we breathlessly list our every activity in an effort to “out-busy” the other woman.  The prize?  The personal pride that we are more stressed than the woman we are talking to.  Don’t be embarrassed to concede defeat and say, “Well, I’ve been focusing on de-stressing. On Sunday, I watched a movie with my family and then read some of my book.” You may have lost the shoot-out, but who wants the title of “Most Stressed Woman” anyway?

I read this week that Craig Groeschel, in his book Weird, recommends a to-don’t list.  It’s a tool for those like me who find inactivity takes effort, to help me choose sitting on the deck while my daughters color with sidewalk chalk over doing laundry or choose pushing my baby girl in her swing and listening to her giggles turn to belly laughs over planning church programs.

This isn’t about rules, regulations and law.  It isn’t about Pharisaical hypocrisy and legalism.  It’s about rest and rest is about a humble stepping aside and the placing and continual re-placing of God in control of our lives.

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For further thoughts, check out:

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 © 2012 Heather King

 

Devotions From My Garden: It’s Crowded In Here

My daughters and I reached a compromise.

I announced that I didn’t want to grow a vegetable garden this year.  It was too much work for too little result.  It didn’t save money.  It started out fun in April and ended up a horrible, rotten, ugly chore by the middle of July.  Various ravenous insects destroyed and devoured my plants.

Their response was unanimous.  “But Ma—awm.  We like to grow our own food.”

So we narrowed down the lists of vegetables we would grow and planted a container garden on our deck.

On one of the warmest and sunniest days in April, we filled large wooden crates with garden soil, vegetable food and the tiny plants of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers we had chosen.  Then we dropped the carrot seeds into the dirt, following exact directions on how far down to push them and how far apart they needed to be spaced.

Mostly we worked together, but after a while my daughters disappeared to work on their own project. They held out the result to me with pride.  It was a small planter with dirt in it.

“We planted radishes,” they announced, “all by ourselves.”

I shrugged.  The radish seeds were leftovers from last year.  It seemed unlikely they’d grow.  Yet, the girls faithfully watered that pot for days and surprisingly they were rewarded by the first hints of green.

A day later, the pot was crowded by infant radishes.  The girls must have dumped 20 seeds all into the same tiny space in the miniature pot.

It was going to be really crowded in there.

Unfortunately, even though it is hard and a little sad, we now have to make some tough choices.  If all the radish plants remain in that pot, none of them will grow correctly.  Some of them have to come on out of there.

Sometimes our lives are just as crowded as that tiny radish pot.  Every single seedling may have potential for beauty, growth, and produce, but nothing can grow when they are all shoved into the small space of one simple life and the restriction of 24-hour days.

Even though it’s hard and a little sad, there are times when some things have got to go so that other areas of your life can grow to their full potential.

It’s not always a mystery when choosing what to toss.

When Jesus walked into the temple and saw the vendors hocking their wares–doves for sacrifices and loans for people needing money for their offering–He responded immediately.  It didn’t take a second’s thought for Jesus to overturn their tables and chase the mercenaries out of the holy space of the temple courtyard.

He threw out sin, contaminated worship, and the profanation of the holy.

As soon as Jesus cleared the place, the blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them” (Matthew 21:14).

The only reason they could seek healing in the temple, the only reason there was room for the blind and lame to worship, was because Jesus had thrown out the tainted and unholy.

The Message emphasizes this when it says, “Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in.”

Until Jesus cleaned house, there hadn’t even been room in the temple for those who needed God the most.

Will we allow Jesus to overturn the tables in our heart where sin and the unholy have set up shop?  Will we clear out the trash and the disgusting, so that we have room to come to Jesus—and to bring others along who need Him the most?

Of course, it’s not always so easy to tell what has to go in our lives.  We have a million choices of how to invest our time, energy, talents, and money, and all of them could be good.  We could lead hundreds of crusades against a world of evil.

But if we crowd out our lives with too much that is good, nothing will grow as it should.

Jesus Himself exhibited the kind of focus we need, to hone in on our purpose and refuse to be distracted by every demand and need.

During His ministry, mobs of people sought out Jesus for healing.  He lived in a world of need, need, and more need, and He frequently healed those who sought out His help.

But He didn’t heal everyone.

In fact, when the crowds grew too large and people sought Him out for healing alone, He moved onto another town or He escaped the crowds in order to pray alone on a mountain or by the sea.

Healing was fine.  Miracles were part of His ministry.  But it was not His main purpose for coming and He never wanted that to be the focus of His presence.  Instead, He had come to “seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10) and “to save the world” (John 3:17).

Maybe it’s time for you to pull out some of the extra radishes from your pot.  The first ones to go are easy—yank out the sprouts of sin, the unholy habits and the remnants of the flesh life.

Then prayerfully ask God to help you focus.  What seedlings should you tend and invest in until you harvest their potential?  What seedlings need to be set aside so that other areas of your life can grow?

Determine to live an uncrowded life, a flourishing, growing, fruitful life of produce and harvest, made possible by intentional focus and the pursuit of purity in your life and worship.

More Devotions From My Garden:

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 © 2012 Heather King

That Would Have Been Stupid

I could have done it by myself.

But that would have just been stupid.

Not that I didn’t think about it . . . a lot.

I awoke this morning to the sound of my two-year-old slamming open my bedroom door. Then my oldest daughter emerged from her room wrapped in her fleece blanket and looking for breakfast.

That’s when I heard it: my middle daughter scratching out the first words of her day.  She sounded like a desert travel who has gone too long without drink or shade.  “Mom,” she whispered, grasping at her throat, “water.  I need water.  Can’t . . . talk . . . . can’t . . . swallow.  Water.”

And so it began.  It’s the moment you look at your massive to-do list and the calendar showing all the places you need to be and then you glance at your child’s thermometer and you realize it ain’t happening the way you planned.  And that’s okay because she’s more important than checking off tasks on a piece of paper.

I started mentally moving activities around on my week-long chart of things to do and considering creative menu planning to help me stretch the food we had for four days, my next chance for grocery shopping.  Except we didn’t have bread.  And only a day’s supply of milk.  This could be a problem.

I called the doctor’s office and they kindly gave me the only appointment open that day, which sadly was right in the middle of nap time  Still, I was grateful they squeezed us in at all.

After I called the school, I glanced back at my calendar and remembered that I had to lead worship for a women’s Bible Study group the next day, a commitment I had made over two months ago.

Then I came up with a masterful plan.

I’d just make my two-year-old skip her nap today and drag her to the doctor’s office for my other daughter’s Strep test.  Then I’d cart them both, sick child and no-nap child, through the grocery story because without bread I couldn’t even feed my family sandwiches for dinner.  After that, I’d take them both by the church and clean up and prepare the Bible Study room for my small group.

Then the next day, I’d bring my toddler and my sick daughter, along with a cup of water and a throw-up bucket, to the ladies’ group where she could sit next to the piano while I led worship.

Why not?  I’ve done crazy stuff like that before.  It could work.

Maybe.  But it would be stupid.

So, I emailed a friend and asked her to lead Bible Study for me that night and she even offered to clean up the room after our project from the week before.

Then I called my mother-in-law and asked her to watch my girls while I led worship the next day.  She asked if I needed help with the two-year-old during the doctor’s visit in the afternoon during nap time.  No, of course I don’t need help, no way, I can do it . . . Well, actually, to be honest, help would be really nice.

I can’t be the only one who does this, practically killing myself at times all to avoid asking others for help.  Somehow, requesting help from others is always more difficult than asking God for a hand.

Because I am Woman, hear me roar!
Because I hate to inconvenience others who are also busy.
Because it feels really good when you’ve practically killed yourself doing things on your own to survey the results of the stress and realize “I Did That Myself.”

Stupid pride.

Yet today when I made my calls and emails to ask for help, guess what?  People were happy to help.  Not only that, they even heaped on all kinds of blessing and grace, helping me in ways I hadn’t even thought to ask.

This is what we are supposed to do for each other, loving one another with self-sacrificing, abundant-blessing love. In fact, Paul told us this was part of fulfilling Jesus’ instructions:  “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2, ESV).

Sometimes that means we’re the ones stooping down to lift the load of another to carry it a while on our own backs.  Sometimes we’re the one others lean on, the person others call in times of need and distress.

And that’s a joy to do.

But then there are those days when our own load is pushing our shoulders low to the ground or we realize that short of cloning ourselves, we just can’t get it all done.

When someone notices our burdened limping and asks to help us, we too often reject them.  We deprive them of the blessing God would give them for pouring themselves out for another.

Instead, we stress ourselves and our families out when we pridefully insist on doing it all ourselves.

This isn’t about taking advantage of friends and family out of laziness or selfishness.  It’s about the mutual bearing the burdens of “one another.”  I’m part of the “one another,” and so are you.  God didn’t design anyone to be the burden-bearer for others all the time.  He designed us to have times to carry and times to rest, times to give help and times to receive it.

After all, even Simon of Cyrene carried the cross for Jesus during the walk to Golgotha (Mark 15:21).

Today, I just needed a little help with my load.  Instead of pretending I didn’t, I needed simply to receive that help and be thankful.

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 © 2012 Heather King

That’s What He Said (A Devotional from the Circus)

The tigers were my favorite, and the elephants, and possibly the cats and dogs performing tricks.  It’s just too hard to choose.

We took my daughters and some friends to the circus for my middle girl’s sixth birthday.  Before the show, we ordered six Happy Meals from McDonald’s.  The cashier in the red shirt kept asking me, “Is this for a boy or a girl.”

For a girl.  All girls.  Six—yes, six—girls.

When we finally filled up every cup, unwrapped all the straws, and handed around the food, the manager popped around the corner to see us.  “Six girls!  Shew.  I just had to see all six of them.”

We assured him that only three belonged to us.

The birthday girl sat next to her friends on one end of the row.  My husband and I sat on the other end.  We all pointed, shouted to one another where to look and what to see, “oohed” and “aahed,” and cheered.

After each act, though, my brand new six-year-old shot all the way across six seats to climb into her Daddy’s lap.

She was scared.  I should have expected the fear, given the Dragon theme for the show.  Every time the music grew the least bit dramatic, she was sure the dragon was coming and it was a real dragon and it was out to get her.

Then when clowns pounced out from the curtains instead of a dragon, she zoomed back to her seat to enjoy the show with her friends, only to run back to Daddy when the clowns splatted to the ground for the last time and the music rumbled again.

Sometimes you just need to be safe with Dad.  We need nothing less from God, open arms and the chance to climb up into His lap when life gets dramatic and what’s waiting behind the curtain seems ominous and overwhelming.  

Late that night after I had dropped off the last of her friends and we drove home alone in the car, my daughter sighed with contentment.  It had been a great day.

“Did you enjoy your birthday trip to the circus?” I asked.

“Yes,” she raved, “It was fun.  But I didn’t like being scared about the dragon because my friends kept saying, ‘The dragon is coming next!’ even when it wasn’t.  And they said “The dragon is real,” and it wasn’t.”

“Didn’t Mommy and Daddy tell you the dragon wasn’t real and that it would be beautiful and that you didn’t need to be afraid?”

“Mmmm-hmmmm.”

“And who do you think is most likely to tell the truth about things like that?  Mom and Dad or other kids?”

Pause for silent thought.

These were just friends, sweet, good friends who weren’t out to scare her or trick her, but were just guessing and giggling and playing games. Even so, she chose to listen to the wrong experts and believe their well-meaning false reports.

I’m reading the book of Matthew with my small group and there are a few phrases that are jumping off of the page at me day after day.

“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet . .. ” (Matthew 1:22).
“For this is what the prophet has written” (Matthew 2:5).
“And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet” (Matthew 2:15).
“Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled” (Matthew 2:17).
“So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets” (Matthew 2:23).
“This is He who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah” (Matthew 3:3).
This was “to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah” (Matthew 4:4).
“This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah” (Matthew 8:17 and 12:17).
In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah (Matthew 13:14).

Surely you sense the pattern.  I love Matthew’s emphasis here that God stayed true to His Word.  Even though it seemed unlikely and impossible, even when it took a long time, He fulfilled every detail of His promises through Jesus.

As Christians, we may question whether something in the Bible is a promise or not a promise.  Can we hold on to it in times of doubt?  Can it be trusted?  Is God trustworthy?

Certainly some promises were specific guarantees that God made to certain people, like assuring Abraham a son at the age of 100.

Yet, in her book The Shelter of God’s Promises, Sheila Walsh writes:

“The two Hebrew words we translate into English as “promise” are the words dabar, meaning “to say,” and omer, meaning “to speak.”  In other words, when God says something, when God speaks, that is as good as it gets He means what He says, and He says what He means.  It would appear as if we, humankind, had to invent the word promise because what we say or speak cannot always be trusted, so we upped the ante with a new word.  But when God speaks, He cannot lie” (p. 12).

The word “promise,” then, exists for our benefit, not God’s.  Every word He utters is truth, reliable truth, unwavering truth.

We combat other voices every day:
Well-meaning friends and family, even our fellow Christians, who make guesses and share opinions about what’s next for us.
Circumstances that scream reasonable-sounding assertions of hopelessness, abandonment, and utter despair.
The world shouting out its unfiltered opinion all day, every day.
Our internal dialogue with Satan’s interjections of shame, condemnation, and doubt.

But today, we can choose to ignore this cacophony of fear, climb up into Abba Father’s lap, and rest in His assurance that we are His.  We are loved, safe, protected, and more, and that’s the truth.

You can read more devotionals on this topic here:

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, 04/21/2012

Hiding the Word:

We made it a late night for the sake of theater.  The girls and I, along with Grammy and Grampy, went to see the local community theater group perform Treasure Island.

I was nervous about the night since the show didn’t start until their bedtime, but my daughters were entranced by the sea shanty-singing, sword-slinging, parrot-toting pirates, who scaled the heights of the ship, leapt overboard, and shot at each other in an attempt to capture the treasure.

From the moment Billy Bones dropped his treasure chest onto the floor of the inn, the girls were intent on classifying the pirates into two types:  Good pirates and bad pirates.  I heard my middle girl loudly “whisper” (she doesn’t really know that whispering involves lowering the volume of your voice) several times at the beginning, “Is he good or bad?”

Long John Silver, in particular, puzzled them.  Was he good, the way he was nice to Jim Hawkins and saved his life?  Was he bad, the way he led the mutiny against Captain Smollet?  He killed some and protected others.

This one-legged renegade was a moral enigma to my daughters.  They couldn’t box him up and fit him in a nice ethical category, so we talked about him and life and right and wrong most of the way home from the play.

Sometimes we too are intent on shoving people into ill-fitting categories and assigning them superficial labels.  We think we “know” someone as soon as we decide they are good/bad, smart/dumb, nice/mean, right/wrong, funny/dull . . .

I’m so thankful that God knows us as more than just a number, a nameless face in the crowd, or little more than a resume of good or bad deeds.

I’m choosing to meditate on this for the week, the promise that God knows me truly and deeply—no matter how complicated I may be.  It’s also the assurance that He loves others in the same way and challenges me to take the time to know them and love them without labels, boxes, and categories.

You have searched me, LORD, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
   you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
   you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
   you, LORD, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
   and you lay your hand upon me (Psalm 139:1-5)

Weekend Rerun:

Where is the Whole World?
Originally posted on 07/22/2011

 

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 © 2012 Heather King

Been There, Done That, Wearing the T-Shirt

Now this I know: The LORD gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand.
Psalm 20:6

One of my indoor cats decided this week to go for an extended stay outside.  He forgot to let me know where he was going and when he would be home.

So inconsiderate of him.

We didn’t see him slip out the back door as we took out the recycling and watered our vegetable garden.  It wasn’t until I returned home from running errands all morning that I realized something was wrong.  Only one cat (my massive black behemoth of a feline) greeted me at the door to see if I had brought home cat food.

After searching the house in all of his favorite hiding spots, I realized the truth—he wasn’t inside, so he must be out.  That’s when I began calling his name and searching along the trees and brush on the edges of our yard.  I peered underneath our deck and rattled some cat food in a dish to get his attention.

My kids and I prayed for him to come home.  Well, most of my kids prayed.  My youngest daughter had been worried about him all day and kept peeking under the beds or tables asking, “Oliver?”  My middle girl declared, “He’s my buddy and I’d be sad if he didn’t come home.”  They prayed.

My older daughter, however, said she thought we should get rid of his cat dish if he was lost forever and, by the way, if we just got rid of our other cat, perhaps we could get a puppy instead.

She’s not a cat person.

At church, I asked my Bible study girls to pray and then my daughters and I prayed again as we drove home.  Once we pulled into my driveway, I drove extra slowly and asked the girls to keep a lookout for him.

That’s when my two-year-old screamed, “There he is.  I find him!!”

I didn’t believe her at first.  She’s the tiniest one of the bunch.  How could she spot him so quickly?  Still, I asked, “Where do you see him?”

“At the house.  There!”

Sure enough, my striking orange cat was sitting up tall on the deck of our house just waiting for us to come home and let him inside.  He was nonchalant about the whole thing, as if his return was never in question.

During our persistent prayers that evening, we didn’t know that God had already delivered the answer we had been seeking.  We were praying for my cat’s return.  He was already hanging out on the deck by our back door.

It was the same for the Israelites, poised on the outskirts of the Promised Land.  Their first major obstacle to possessing the territory they had pursued for 40 years now loomed large in front of them, daunting, impenetrable, impossible.  A walled city.  Jericho.

We’re told, “now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites.  No one went out and no one came in” (Joshua 6:1).

Yet, it was just at this moment, in the shadow of those thick walls with closed gates, that the “Lord said to Joshua, ‘See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands'” (Joshua 6:2, NIV).

The Message says it this way: “Look sharp now. I’ve already given Jericho to you.” (Joshua 6:2 MSG).

It’s the tiniest matter of grammar, the simple fact of the past tense here that draws my attention.  God didn’t say, “I’m going to give Jericho to you” or “In about a week, the walls will fall down and you’ll win the day.”

No, God already declared the victory.  “I have delivered Jericho.”  “I’ve already given Jericho to you.”

It’s a done deal, a finished conquest, a promise, an assertion of fact that the Israelites couldn’t yet see.

They saw the towering walls still standing and blocking their entrance into the Promised Land.
God saw the walls crumbled into pieces and scattered on the ground at the feet of His people.

Then, after declaring that the victory was already theirs, God gave them instructions on how to achieve it.  He described the crazy march, the circumventing of the city for seven days.  He instructed them to shout after that final foolish-looking journey around Jericho.  He declared that the walls would collapse and the Hebrew army would march into the city.

There are some promises we’re waiting to see fulfilled, some prayer requests we’ve brought to God’s feet year after year, and it’s hard to maintain what seems like impossible hope in the light of circumstantial evidence and walls that never seem to fall.

Yet, perhaps God has already declared your victory.  He sees what you do not: The battle finished and the walls toppled over like a block tower sabotaged by a toddler.

This is why we do not lose hope, because God will be faithful to deliver the victories He has promised us.  He has declared it.  The battle is already won.

So we obey the instructions He gives, no matter how foolish-looking, crazy-sounding or wildly imaginative they may seem.  March and shout as He instructs and watch the tiniest gravel start the avalanche that brings down the impenetrable fortress of your circumstances.

If you’re just standing at the walls looking up, don’t lose hope in God’s ability to grant you victory.  Leave the battle in His hands and wait for the rocks to come tumbling down.

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.

Broken Crayons And Other Things That Drive Me Crazy

Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved!”
(Psalm 80:3, ESV).

Things that drive me crazy:

Procrastination, disorganization, messing with “the plan” and the schedule, slow pokes, Play Doh colors all mixed together, shoes and jackets dropped in the middle of the kitchen floor, crowds, wet towels left on the sink and toothpaste stuck to the bathroom walls, markers with no tops.

Oh, and something else, too: Broken crayons. Even worse, crayons with the paper torn off. I mean, if you rip the paper off, the crayons are more susceptible to breaking. Plus, it’s difficult to tell whether you are holding blue, purple or black in your hand.

It’s enough to give a mom fits.

When my kindergartener told me that Show & Tell this week needed to be something recycled or reused, we started brainstorming.  There was the orange juice carton we turned into a birdfeeder.  The paper towel roll my oldest daughter made into Snow White.  The Popsicle stick my middle girl turned into a pig.  The Mason jar painted over and made into a candle holder.

Or we could find something to do with those pesky broken and naked crayons that drive me so crazy.

Jackpot!

I spent this morning collecting the remnants of Crayola.  Once beautiful, bright, pointy crayons fresh from the box—now broken, bespeckled, faded, and unwrapped.

We filled a tray of heart-shaped silicone with the jumble of brokenness, melted the wax, cooled it and then popped out beautiful new rainbow heart crayons.

We made something fun, colorful, and unique out of the old, broken, and worn out.

God’s plan for restoring us in life is so often like melting down broken wax and transforming it into a uniquely colorful treasure with a beauty all its own.

We pray for restoration, hope for it, long for it with desperate hearts.  We need the fixing, mending, healing power of God in our relationships, in our worship, in our churches, in our sick and hurting bodies, in our grief, in our finances, and more.

David needed it emotionally and knew that the Lord His Shepherd, “restores my soul” (Psalm 23:3).  Later, He needed spiritual restoration after he committed adultery and murderer, as he prayed, “Restore to me the joy of my salvation” (Psalm 51:12).

What we usually long for in the midst of brokenness is full-circle restoration.  We want what we once had, what Satan took from us, or what we’ve lost along our journey.

That’s what Israel prayed for when they were beseiged, starved, and taken captive:  “Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old” (Lamentations 5:21 ESV).

Give us back the good old days!

And it seemed like that’s exactly what God did.  When Nehemiah returned to rebuild the ruins of the Jerusalem walls, he began at the Valley Gate (Nehemiah 2:13).  Then, 52 days later, they finished the job and celebrated with choirs, corporate praise, rededication, and a procession that marched out through the gates they had rebuilt, starting with what scholars believe was the Valley Gate.

In Nehemiah: A Heart That Can Break, Kelly Minter writes: “If God began Nehemiah’s journey at the broken Valley Gate and completed it at a restored one, we have reason to hope He will work with the same restorative power in our lives” (p. 151).

They had, after all, come full circle.  This surely renews our hope.

And yet, this wasn’t exactly the same as what they had lost, and that’s also reason to rejoice!  These were rebuilt walls, walls with a testimony.  They showed God’s faithfulness to His people, bringing them back from captivity and helping them rebuild their land.

The rebuilt walls in our lives are also a testimony of God’s faithful lovingkindness and mercy.  They can’t possibly be misunderstood or misinterpreted as walls pounded into place by our own ability and strength.

They are all about how God brought us back and helped us stand.

The best thing about God’s restoration is that He often does more than we expect.  We want the same as the good old days.  Many times, however, He gives us more than we had before or even something better.

He did this for Job, giving him “twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10).

He does this for us, as Peter tells us:

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10, ESV).

He doesn’t just give us back the pieced-together remnants of our past; He restores us in a way that makes us stronger, and He does it Himself, stitching us back together with His own patient hand.

God doesn’t give up on the broken crayons in our lives or toss away those of us who’ve come unpeeled.  He may melt us down and it may hurt, but He makes us new, beautiful, different, stronger, unique—restored for His glory and with a story to tell of His goodness.

Want to transform your broken crayons into something fun and new?  There are some great “recipes” online, including this one here.

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I don’t just have things that drive me crazy.  Things can make me happy, too!  Like:

Family time, baking with my girls, heartfelt worship, chocolate, hot tea with sugar, time with God at my kitchen table, words that are fun to say, holding my husband’s hand, triple word tiles in Scrabble, honeysuckle candles, free concerts on the beach in the summer time, my daughters giggling, the smell of fireplaces burning in autumn air, pumpkins, my small group, crossword puzzles, the perfect coupon, Masterpiece Classic and Masterpiece Mystery, brand new pointy crayons, fresh Play Doh, the Beatles, comfy white socks, Dickens and Shakespeare, British comedies, when the lights dim and the play starts, listening to my daughters read, a blank computer screen and the clicking of the keys as I fill it up with words.

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 © 2012 Heather King

Altars of Uncut Stones or the Beauty of Simple Obedience

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

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

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

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

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

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

I put my foot down about those.

But if it fits neatly into the pocket of her jacket, she’s likely to tuck it away where I can’t see and add it to her “rock collection.”  Perhaps she’ll even give it a name, which usually ends up being something like “Rocky” or another equally creative moniker.

I made the mistake of tossing “Rocky the First” back into our garden when I discovered it on her dresser.  She cried.  She searched the back garden for a glimpse of him and, finding him, carried Rocky right back inside.

To me, it was an ugly rock.  To her it was a treasured part of her collection, more like a pet than a simple object.

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

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

More specifically,

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

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

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

Or, if God insisted on them using river rocks, at the very least they could have chiseled and carved until the altar looked like a marble statue, perhaps of angels or a depiction of the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant, or of Joshua leading the people.

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

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

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

That’s because God knew the danger implicit in cut stones and man-made bricks.  The moment we begin to adorn altars with human effort is the moment we shift the focus off of the God we praise.  Instead, we admire the human talent that made the vessel or the human ability that cut the stone.

We become idolaters.  Our worship becomes profane.

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

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

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

Israel wanted to worship God their own way and on their own terms.  His instructions seemed superfluous and unnecessary.  Their ideas seemed so much nicer, so much better, so superior, so much more religious than God’s request for pure and uncut praise.

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

He desires the simplicity of an obedient heart.

We think He needs more.  

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

It isn’t, however, about being the best, most talented, or most qualified; it’s about being called.  Yours is the offering He desires.  It is because of your heart of obedience that He can be glorified in the sacrifices you bring.

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

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

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer 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 © 2012 Heather King

Weekend Walk, 04/14/2012

Hiding the Word:

This morning when I awoke, I didn’t know what verse to choose to meditate on this week or what inspirational and insightful message to share with you all.

I was a blank.

I was blank as I served up breakfast for my children, blank as I washed up the kitchen and switched over laundry, blank as I showered, blank as I drove to and shopped at my church yard sale.

Then, on my second sweep around the gym full of recycled treasures, I discovered a tiny, Christmas-colored box almost hidden on the table amidst china and craft supplies.

This was treasure indeed, Scriptures in a cardboard box to last me a whole year and to remind me to pray for the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes that we package up and send out to children around the globe each Christmas season.

On the very first card in my box, Franklin Graham has a message that reads:

“As you commit verses to memory your heart becomes like a treasure chest filled with verses that can bring you comfort, strength, inspiration, courage, and refreshment.”

Amen to that, Franklin Graham!

So, in the Spirit of Operation Christmas Child and the Samaritan’s Purse organization, here’s our verse for the week:

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
1 John 3:18, NIV

Weekend Walk:

In His Time
Originally posted 04/15/2011

Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom”
Psalm 90:12

The day has finally arrived!  I’ve iced cupcakes, wrapped presents, and filled goody bags for my daughter’s fifth birthday party.

She has been asking me when this day would come every single morning for 9 months.  I’d show her on the calendar how far she had to go and she would sigh and whine with frustration.  Her birthday simply would never come.  She would never ever be five years old.  Everyone would always be older than her. Surely she would stay four years old indefinitely.

I’ve held her as she sobbed out tears of disappointment only one week ago because her birthday was just too far away.  Seven days was an impossibly long time to wait.

I, on the other hand, feel as if this day has come so quickly.  How is it possible that my gorgeous, brilliant, quirky little one has been with me for five years?  For these past few months, I’ve been telling her to wait, just wait, it will come and it will arrive sooner than she realizes, but those words felt empty and meaningless to her.

Impatience weighs heavy in this house.  My older girl has been telling every stranger in town, “Hi, my name is Victoria.  I’m almost seven.”  Sometimes, she even pads her age a bit and tells them she’s almost ten or almost 12.  And so I lean down and whisper to her that her birthday just happened; she’s still eight months away from even one more birthday, much less four or six!

“Mommy, I want to be in kindergarten.  Mommy, I want to be in first grade.  Mommy, I want to wear point shoes in ballet.  Mommy, I want to be a teenager.  Mommy, I want to be old enough for a house of my own so I can have a dog.” Even my baby toddles around after older sisters trying to do the same “big girl” things they do.

No matter how old they are, they always want to be older.  I try to tell them truth—that one day they will pay bills, and go to work, and care for sick children, and will long for the preschool days when they worried only about show and tell and their snack choice for the day.

Please enjoy this moment right now, I beg.  Please don’t let it pass by you unnoticed and unvalued because you are too busy looking ahead to the next step.

And I have been there.  I have trekked across a college campus and longed for graduation.  Married and been asked by family when we’d have a baby.  Had a baby and contemplated what it would be like to have older kids, and sleep, and no diapers, and no need for babysitters. Worked a job and longed for retirement.   Always too busy thinking about later to actually enjoy now.

Solomon told us “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heaven . . . He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11, NIV).  No amount of rushing or anticipating or worrying will change God’s appointed seasons in our lives.

I love to visit Colonial Williamsburg and walk the gardens surrounding the palace and I long to stroll through the local botanical gardens and enjoy the color and scents and hovering butterflies in a place of beauty.  But, if I travel there before they are ready, before the flowers have bloomed and while the bulbs still lie dormant beneath cold earth, I would see death, not life, brown dirt instead of the brilliant hues of tulips and daffodils.  “He has made everything beautiful in its time,” and so we must cultivate, plant, and tend as God calls us to so that we can enjoy life in its proper season.

Of course, sometimes we feel as if the season we are in has lasted forever and that surely God will never release us to newness and fulfillment.  We remain dissatisfied with the now He has given us as we dream about the future we imagine.

And what happens, then, if the next season bears no resemblance to the goals and dreams in our heart?  I know a couple who planned retirement with excitement and anticipation, but the reality wasn’t travel, relaxation and golf.  No, it was stroke and poor health and a future not at all what they had envisioned.  They can’t go back and enjoy the time before caregiving and doctor’s appointments.  It is now a season past.

In Psalm 90, Moses challenges us to keep the proper perspective about our life’s circumstances.  He says, “A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night . . . Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures . . . Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:4, 10, 12, NIV).

We all feel stuck sometimes and without hope that we’ll ever overcome our difficulties.  My mom’s greatest advice was to remember that “this is only a season and won’t last forever.”

There were struggles and stresses that consumed my thoughts in the day and kept me awake at night, now long since resolved and in the past.  Sleepless nights with a newborn, a teething infant, terrible twos, potty training, juggling college and work, unemployment—all seasons that seemed interminable when I was in them, but now appear so brief as I scan back over my life history.  Even our entire lives, the seventy or eighty years Moses thinks we have on this planet, constitute so little of the human history God has witnessed and walked through.

So then, we ask that God “teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  It is wisdom indeed to realize that the circumstances we are in are a passing season and hope can carry us through to victory. A new season will arrive at just the right moment and it will be beautiful in its proper time.

But, it is also wisdom to number our days, making each one count.  Not letting a single calendar square go by without us valuing it for what it is–this is our life in the here and now and God is present in it. What would it look like if we lingered here in this place, finding the beauty God has created in this time rather than straining to see what lies ahead?  It would be a life of glorious contentment and peace, restful and unrushed as we take the time to look, really look, at the beauty all around us in the reality of our now.

Even in the difficult times, we learn to see the beauty in dirt turned over, weeds pulled, seeds planted—the work God is doing in our lives this moment, the beauty of Him active in our lives, cultivating our hearts in this season, knowing that in His own perfect timing He will bring forth growth, shoots of life, and a harvest plentiful.  So much beauty all in His time.

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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.