More Than a Spoonful of Sugar

I keep checking the tickets that I printed off weeks ago.  Do I have the day right?  The time?  Have I forgotten something?

Every time I unfold the creased sheets of paper and read over the details, I’m amazed by God.  Really and truly in awe.

It started with such a simple thing, the Broadway show, Mary Poppins, coming to good old Virginia twice in four months.

The first time I missed it.  Life was too crazy, too expensive, just too much.  But I dared to hope and even just pray a little around Christmas time this tentative request:

Lord, I know this isn’t something I need and I do need other things instead and this is crazy and extravagant.  I’m not even asking that my whole family gets to go.  If you could just maybe provide the money for two tickets for me and my husband, that’d be awesome.  Or even one ticket; that’d be okay.  Maybe I could go with a friend?  And I understand if you say, ‘no,’ because I know it’s a silly thing anyway.

It felt so selfish to even ask.  Normally I stick to the basics: car repairs, bills, car tax payments…that kind of thing.

But then we received unexpected Christmas money, enough to pay for exactly five seats to see the Broadway show for my whole family.marypoppins-1-1024x768

I had sheepishly asked for one ticket.

God gave me five.

And I’m struck by this kind of extravagant grace, the way our God loves to bless His children, enjoys giving them good gifts, promises to give us what we need and then sometimes just indulges us in the whims and desires of our hearts.

Why then, knowing His character, do I treat Him like such a stingy Scrooge of a God so often?  I hesitate to even ask him for another coal for the fire.   I avoid His gaze and stammer out requests as if I’m a burden, a pest, and ashamed to even ask.

Even when it’s a Need and not a Want, I pray and ask, but give Him an out, not truly trusting that He will do this, that He could do this, that He would want to do this for me.

“Well, I guess if you don’t provide it’s just Your will and Thy Will Be Done,” that’s what I pray in a sort of hyper-pious acknowledgment of His sovereignty without any confidence in the might and mercy of His character.

But what would have happened if blind Bartimaeus had been hesitant about his need, reluctant to ask, limiting his request and thereby limiting his Savior?

Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?”

“Lord, I want to see,” he replied.

Bartimaeus didn’t try to give Jesus an easy out.  “Lord, I’d like to be a little less blind than I am.  Jesus, if you could just correct my vision a little bit I’d at least be able to walk around.  Could I see in just one eye?  Could you maybe provide me with a guide or seeing eye dog to help me out?”

No, Jesus asked what he wanted and Bartimaeus wanted to see—see all the way.

And Jesus didn’t just open his eyes to the minimum amount necessary to just barely survive.  He made the blind man see, truly see, 100%, abundantly, without reservation or drawback…see.

Sometimes our God tells us “no,” out of love and His infinite wisdom. He’s no over-indulgent parent giving into the whims of spoiled children.  And He’s no prayer request vending machine, automatically dispensing answers indiscriminately to whoever puts in the coin.

But there are times it just gives Him so much joy to give us not just the daily bread, but the Krispy Kreme as a special treat.

Paul wrote:

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us (Ephesians 1:7-8 NIV)

and

Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that (Ephesians 5:1-2 MSG).

He’s no miser, this God of ours, rationing His gifts to us and frowning grumpily when we need….or even sometimes when we want.  And while we trust His “no” when He declines a request, one of the reasons we trust His love and best intentions for us is because “no good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11 ESV).

If He knows it’s good, it blesses Him to give it.

And it blesses us to receive it as the lavish, rich, and extravagant grace it is, not what we deserve or have earned, but what He has given anyway simply because He loves.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

And the Answer Is . . .

Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me . . .But I call to God,
    and the Lord will save me.
(Psalm 55:5, 16)

I failed my driver’s test at least twice.  I say “at least” because I might have blanked out and actually failed it three . . . possibly four times.  It’s hard to say.  It’s enough to tell you that I still refuse to parallel park 16 years later.

So, when a friend of mine in college said that sometimes he just needed to drive, I didn’t get it.  Driving was stressful for me, parking even more so.  For him, though, it was like therapy.  Overwhelmed and overcome, he’d just cruise down the highway with an unimportant and undefined destination.

Today, for the first time, I understood.  Kissing my older girls goodbye and waving to them as they left on the school bus, I walked my toddler to the minivan and helped her into her seat. Then we drove.

As a mom, I’ve generally lost all control over the music in the car, so I let my two-year-old sing for a while about numbers, pirates, monkeys and queens.

Then I announced, “Mommy’s turn” and flicked a switch, only to hear:

Send me a sign: a hint, a whisper
Throw me a line ’cause I am listening
Come break the quiet; Breathe your awakening
Bring me to life ’cause I am fading . . .

Shine Your light so I can see You
Pull me up, I need to be near You
Hold me, I need to feel love
Can You overcome this heart that’s overcome?
{David Crowder *Band singing SMS (Shine}

That’s when I knew why I was driving.  Just like my friend, I was overwhelmed and overcome.

It’s been one of those seasons of ministry and of life when you’re surrounded by death, cancer, divorce, adultery, abuse, child custody battles, the loss of babies, alcoholism, financial crisis, and unemployment.  I’ve been praying for many miracles these days.

In her book, Knowing God by Name, Mary Kassian wrote about El Oseh Phela or The God Who Works Wonders, focusing on the fact that “The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great deeds of terror, with signs and wonders” (Deut. 26:8). 

She notes the phrase “outstretched arm . . . implies a work not yet fully completed–a work in progress.  The image of a mighty hand and an outstretched arm illustrates that God is intentionally involved in history on an ongoing basis” (p. 66 emphasis mine).

It’s part of God’s character, His name, a promise based on who He is that He sometimes chooses to deliver us with all of the glory of signs and wonders.  And it’s now, not just thousands of years ago for Moses or Joshua, for Elijah and Daniel.  It’s for us, too, which gives me hope when I’m praying for “impossible” requests.

Yet, at times we’re looking for the fireworks, lightning bolts, and parting seas of miraculous intervention, only to overlook the answer He’s already given to our prayers of desperation—through the ministry of others.

That’s why God fed Elijah once miraculously with food carried in the claws of ravens and then fed Elijah miraculously through the generosity of the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17).  It was God’s way of meeting Elijah’s needs and blessing the widow at the same time by allowing her to be part of God’s activity.

Sometimes we are the miracle God is sending to another.  We are the blessing He has offered; we are the provision; we are His answer to the tearful prayers in the night.

Not that it’s because of our own ability or volition.  It’s God’s generous way of allowing us to be used in service and His gracious method of linking people together, knowing that we need the connection and relationship that it brings.

At the start of this year, I read Billy Graham’s book Nearing Home and I wrote this in a devotional:

We tend to give when it’s convenient.  We often make decisions based on what’s practical.  We give what we can afford.  We get together when we’re “free.”

But Jesus served others when it was inconvenient and impractical.  He skipped meals, changed plans, took the long way around, gave up time away for those who needed Him and died to save them.  He didn’t stay up on the cross for the sake of a theology or a plan.  He did it for love of people.

My husband said, “often what is important isn’t what’s practical” in our relationships with others.

So, this year I want to major on the important, even if it’s impractical, hard, or downright crazy.”

Starting in my own home and moving out from there, I’m challenged again to follow Christ’s example and make people my priority and passion.

The Message says it this way:

Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?” That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out” (Romans 15:1-4 MSG)

Maybe we’re praying for God’s intervention in situations and it really is going to take His mighty hand and outstretched arm to deliver.  But maybe we’re praying for the miracles and God’s already given the answer . . . and the answer is us.

So, I’m ending today with the words to another of my favorite songs, a prayer of sorts for God’s people to love people.

Where there is pain, let us bring grace
Where there is suffering bring serenity
For those afraid, let us be brave
Where there is misery, let us bring them relief
And surely we can change . . . Something
(David Crowder *Band, Surely We Can Change)

You can watch the video for SMS (Shine) by clicking here or by clicking on the image from the blog.  Please take the time to watch and listen today!!!

And here’s the link to Surely We Can Change.

You can read other 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.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King