The miracles that don’t look like miracles

I heard the sad news that the man in this story passed away this morning.  I’m remembering him today just as he shared a sweet memory of his own mom and I’m praying for his family….

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

Years ago, the sweet man who led our church choir leaned back in his stool at the front of the music room.  He told us in a slow southern drawl what he remembered about his mother.

On the dark and stormy nights of his childhood, when the thunder raged and lightning struck close enough to illuminate his room, he would awaken to find his mom sitting in a chair at the foot of his bed.  She sat with him through the storms, praying over him, even while he continued to sleep.

That’s what he remembered about her: her presence in the stormy nights.

Last night, I supervised the brushing of teeth and the donning of pajamas, packing lunches and backpacks, and laying out clothes for the new day.  We read bedtime stories.  We prayed as a family.

This morning, I poured cereal and I buttered toast.  I placed ice packs in the lunches and zipped up the backpacks.

I helped with shoes and socks, combed hair, and reminded my daughters (too many times) to brush their teeth and to do it well because they don’t want cavities or bad breath and, by the way, we’re going to the dentist next week.

I checked the weather and then I held out jackets for each girl.  I broke up a fight and gave a crying daughter a hug, calmed her down, and then placed the two sisters on a school bus.Photo by Viktor Hanacek at PicJumbo

The day was like every day.

I don’t remember these childhood moments, not my mom tying my shoes or helping me put on my jacket, supervising bath time or pulling my hair into pigtails.

But she did them.  My life is filled with years and years of everyday acts of love I don’t remember.

Usually these acts of love remain unnoticed and undervalued . . . unless they’re missing.  Those children who aren’t fed well, bathed, read to, hugged, kept safe, and tucked into their own cozy beds at night feel the lack.

What will my kids remember about this time with me? It’s not likely they’ll remember the moments of jackets and breakfasts and backpacks.

But they might remember the special times, like waking on a stormy night to see mom by the bed.

And I wonder, what do I remember about God, my Father?  Usually, it’s the stormy times when I awaken in fear only to find His presence.  It’s the times He’s kept me safe and delivered me from danger.

Yet, we so often overlook the miracles of everyday grace, the simplest signs of His affection and the fact that He cares for our needs and yes, sometimes even our desires.

When we always look for the glorious miracle, the immediate and the extraordinary, we miss thanking God for the gradual, the expected, and the small.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “A slow miracle is no easier to perform than an instant one.”

We revel in the answers to prayer that come fast. The ones that don’t require interminable waiting and inconvenient patience.

We pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” and then miss the miracle of everyday provision.cslewismiracle

In the book of Nehemiah, the exiles who returned to Jerusalem skipped sleep, fended off enemies, prayed, and labored with a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other.  They hefted bricks until the walls of Jerusalem were complete, all in just 52 days.  It was a miracle.  Even their enemies knew that:

When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God (Nehemiah 6:16).

How easy it would be to overlook the miracle, though, because it didn’t look miraculous.

As Kelly Minter writes in Nehemiah: A Heart That Can Break:

“It’s worth noting that so far we’ve read nothing of angels, burning bushes, or talking donkeys.  Instead, we’ve seen God use what we might consider ordinary to bring about extraordinary transformation: prayer, repentance, willingness, hard work, sacrifice, humility, faith.  Though miraculous displays of God’s power are to be desired and cherished, I’m equally impressed with God speaking silently to Nehemiah’s heart in the most ‘normal’ of circumstances.  Be encouraged that the common, everyday realities are ideal environments for God to put something in our hearts to do” (Minter 116).

So we thank Him for the daily bread, for forgiveness, for mercies made new every morning, for unceasing faithfulness, and His goodness (Lamentations 3:23-26).  We thank Him for the quiet and the everyday and His presence.

It may not be showy and ostentatious.  Still, it’s love.  That’s worth remembering.

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 book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

A Prayer and Bible Verse for the New Year

I opened up that brand new calendar last year…2013…all empty blanks and an uncertain future.

I spent last December seeking God, asking Him whether He wanted us to add a new baby to our family. And I prayed over my book, knowing it would be published but not knowing anything about the journey.

In October, I held both in my hands: a beautiful baby boy and the very first paperback copy of my book.  God had been at work and I cried at the site of His glory.

Your 2013 may have been full of the unexpected, too.  Maybe blessings.  Maybe adversity.

I had both, as well.  I knew the joy and sadness of 2013, too.

But there’s one thing we know: Our God is with us, and He’s a God that doesn’t change.

Yesterday…

Today…

Forever…

Our God, the unchanging Almighty, will be present with us in all that 2014 has to offer.

May God bless your new year and may we start it off together like this—seeking Him in prayer and through His Word!!

A Prayer for the New Year

Lord, Whether we’re leaving behind a year of joy and blessing or trials and difficulties, we pause to give thanks.
We thank You that You are always with us every single day of every single year.
Please remind us of Your presence in the year ahead, even when life is busy.
We are so thankful that we serve a God who makes things new and gives us the grace of fresh starts and new beginnings.
Be glorified in our lives this year.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

newyearprayer

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Revelation 21:5 NIV

rev21

See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43:19

isaiah43

There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.
C.S. Lewis

cslewis

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 book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

I Want More

I wanted to walk.

I needed to do other things.

In the 40 minutes between the “Amen” at the end of prayer group and the moment I had to pick up my little one from preschool, I should have been reading, prepping, writing, practicing, answering and completing.

I did, after all, have a to-do list to follow!  Things to check off!  Tasks to accomplish!

Still, I wanted to walk.

It was a warm day, the kind of slightly humid warm of a morning before an afternoon storm.  The clouds hadn’t yet blocked the sun and the cooling wind cut through the sticky heat, carrying scents of fall.

It was lovely.

So, down the Main Street of our town I strolled, wearing ballet flats instead of walking shoes—a reminder of the whimsicality of the moment.

I passed houses with mums dotting the gardens and azaleas in final bloom along the path and business with window displays of colored leaves and pumpkins.

At first, I thought about that dreaded list, the tasks I was leaving undone.  I was problem-solving and planning and mentally re-arranging my day.

But then I noticed the sound of the breeze, how the wind tossing about the leaves in the trees sang a constant hum.

And I saw the acorns scattered along the path and piled into the grass, the wind’s gift to squirrels looking for easy pickings.

And I watched as the clouds didn’t just mosey almost imperceptibly across the sky.  No, they were running and dancing past my eyes, pushed along by the breeze.

My walk was about finding more.

But those times never last forever.  I too quickly returned to the schedule and the to-do list, still wishing for more of something undefinable, indescribable, and impossible to cram into a word from a dictionary.

We talk a lot about what it means to desire more in life.

We say we’ve all been designed with a God-shaped hole.  While we try to fill that void with stuff and with sin, relationships and success, it’s only God who can ever satisfy.  Everything else results in a bottomless pit of emptiness.

That’s true.

And we talk about what it means as Christians to long for more.

How we need to put aside the busyness of religion and pursue relationship with Jesus.  How we must shun the sin that prevents intimacy with God.  And until He’s fully Lord of our lives and we’re walking with Him closely, not just day by day, but moment by moment, we’ll always feel poured out and never filled.

That’s true, too.

We sang it in worship this Sunday morning, “All of You is more than enough for all of me, for every thirst and every need.  You satisfy me with Your love.”

So, what’s wrong with me?  Why, after all of that, can I still feel the longing?

Not for more money or possessions, fame or success, love or attention.

For more Jesus.

So often our typical lessons on this issue follow the same trite pattern.

You want more.
You get rid of sin.
You draw closer to God.
You feel better.
Amen.

Like that’s as far as it goes.

Is God enough for us, enough to fully satisfy the deepest, most cavernous longing of our heart and souls?

Yes, He absolutely is.

Do sin and busyness choke us and keep us from being satisfied in Christ?

Yes, they absolutely do.

But even then, don’t you feel it–the insatiable groaning in your soul for something more than we can ever find in the here and now of life on earth?

C.S. Lewis wrote:

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world” (Mere Christianity)

This incessant longing, even in the moments of greatest intimacy with Christ, even on quiet walks with Jesus on lovely fall days, doesn’t mean God isn’t enough.

It just means that we were:

“made for eternity, for glory, and as long as your feet are here on this earth, you will experience a glory ache that only heaven can fully satisfy”  (Sharon Jaynes, A Sudden Glory: God’s Lavish Response to Your Ache for Something More, p. 192).

God designed us not for this life, but for the ever after life with Him.  Ecclesiastes tells us: “He has also set eternity in the human heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

When we see Jesus face to face and the physical realities of this world, the death and sin about us, the crushing grind of the daily, when all that is gone and it’s just our Savior and us and it’s forever . . . then we will be satisfied, fully drenched and totally filled.

Until then, we bring our longing for more to Jesus and let Him whisper to us about heaven and of what awaits us there.

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

It’s A Miracle!

The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him (Lamentations 3:25)

Years ago, the sweet man who led our choir then leaned back in his stool at the front of the choir room.  He told us in a slow southern drawl what he remembered about his mother. I think about his story often.

On the dark and stormy nights of his childhood, when the thunder raged and lightning struck close enough to illuminate his room, he would awaken to find his mom sitting in a chair at the foot of his bed.  She sat with him through the storms, praying over him, even while he continued to sleep.

That’s what he remembered about her: her presence in the stormy nights.

Last night, I supervised the brushing of teeth and the donning of pajamas, packing lunches and backpacks, and laying out clothes for the new day.  We read bedtime stories.  We prayed as a family.

This morning, I poured cereal and buttered toast.  I placed ice packs in the lunches and zipped up the backpacks, all full for the day.

I helped with shoes and socks, combed hair, and reminded my daughters (too many times) to brush their teeth and to do it well because they don’t want cavities or bad breath and, by the way, we’re going to the dentist next week.

Sticking my head out the door for a moment, I checked the weather.  Then I held jackets open for each girl to slip in her arms.  I broke up a fight and gave a crying daughter a hug, calmed her down, and then placed the two sisters on a school bus.

And the day went on with more little tasks and routine activities.

I don’t remember these moments from my childhood.  Do you?  I don’t remember my mom tying my shoes or helping me put on my jacket.  I don’t remember her supervising bath time or pulling my hair into pigtails.

Even though I don’t remember those things, she did them.  I was clean, fed, dressed, and groomed.  My life must have been filled with years and years of everyday love that I don’t remember.

Usually these acts of love remain unnoticed and undervalued . . . unless they’re missing.  Those children who aren’t fed well, bathed, read to, hugged, kept safe, and tucked into their own cozy beds at night feel the lack.  Only they perhaps really know how important the small things are.

What will my kids remember about this time with me? It’s not likely they’ll remember the moments of jackets and breakfasts and backpacks.  They don’t lack for these things.  They likely take them for granted, just as I did.

But they might remember something unique or big, just like the man who recalls his mom sitting with him through stormy nights.

I wonder, then, what do I remember about God, my Father?  When I tell about His presence in my life, what has become part of my story? Usually, it’s the stormy times when I awaken in fear only to find His presence by my side.  It’s the times He’s kept me safe and delivered me from danger.

Yet, we so often overlook the miracles of everyday grace, the simplest signs of His affection and the fact that He cares for our needs and yes, sometimes even our desires.

When we always look for the glorious miracle, the immediate and the extraordinary, we miss thanking God for the gradual, the expected, and the small.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “A slow miracle is no easier to perform than an instant one.”

Yet, we revel in the answers to prayer that come fast. The ones that don’t require interminable waiting and inconvenient patience.

We pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” and then miss the miracle of everyday provision—until it seems in jeopardy.

In the book of Nehemiah, the exiles who returned to Jerusalem skipped sleep, fended off enemies, prayed, and labored with a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other.  They hefted bricks until the walls of Jerusalem were complete, all in just 52 days.  It was a miracle.  Even their enemies knew that:

When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God (Nehemiah 6:16).

How easy it would be to forget that, though, because God chose not to build the walls with a word from His lips or destroy their enemies with an earthquake or flood.

As Kelly Minter writes in Nehemiah: A Heart That Can Break:

“It’s worth noting that so far we’ve read nothing of angels, burning bushes, or talking donkeys.  Instead, we’ve seen God use what we might consider ordinary to bring about extraordinary transformation: prayer, repentance, willingness, hard work, sacrifice, humility, faith.  Though miraculous displays of God’s power are to be desired and cherished, I’m equally impressed with God speaking silently to Nehemiah’s heart in the most ‘normal’ of circumstances.  Be encouraged that the common, everyday realities are ideal environments for God to put something in our hearts to do” (Minter 116).

Take time to thank God today for the daily bread, for forgiving our trespasses, for His mercies made new every morning, for His great faithfulness, and because He is good to you (Lamentations 3:23-26).  Thank Him for answered prayers and ministry opportunities.  Thank Him for the quiet ways He speaks to your heart and for the encouragement He brings you day after day.

It may not be spectacular, like fireworks in the night sky.  Still, it’s love.  That’s worth remembering.

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

Come Awake

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies”
Romans 8:22-23

We shuffled into the tiny unfamiliar building, two parents, three daughters behind.  The man asked me, “Do you need any help?”

“We’re here to visit a site, but I don’t know which one.”

“How long?”

“Ummm . . . (mental calculating) six years.”

He types into the computer as I dictate and prints out a map with instructions.  “Is this him?”

I pause.  For some reason, that question is difficult.  “I think, I mean yes, could it be, it must be, yes, that’s him.”  I read and reread the printout to make sure.

We walk out with paper in hand, follow the signs, count the rows, read the names.  “Here it is,” my husband announces.

And it’s . . . him.

My dad.

Daughters stoop down low and trace letters with fingers.  Was this his name?  Was this his birthday?  Was he a soldier?  Did he believe in God—is that why the cross?  Was he old?

No, not old, just sick, very sick.

I can feel the breeze of heaven in that place.

So many days now, I find myself praying, “Come, Lord Jesus.  Come quickly.”

Is there anything more to say at times?  For tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, wild fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, cancer, death, abused and neglected children—they are the aching screams and moans of an earth longing for its Creator. Death and death and death awaits new life when the trumpet sounds and Christ calls, “Come awake!”

C.S. Lewis wrote, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

That’s why this earth hangs loose on my shoulders, so ill-fitting. I pray, “Come, Jesus.  Come quickly.  Call us to break free from a world of death and live life eternal in Your presence because this place, this death-world is not home for us.”

Yes, Lord “haste the day when my faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll; the trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend even so, it is well with my soul” (Spafford).

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’  Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelations 22:20).

Come, Lord Jesus.

Yet, this resurrection thinking, this coming awake, is not just for my eternal future; it’s for the here and now of my life.  Christ renews and resurrects today.

He bids us “Come awake”
when we let spiritual gifts lie dormant
when we withdraw out of pain
when we hold the shattered remains of relationships in our hands
when we hurt and hide away
when we bury a dream
when we face a closed door
when our life season changes
when our rational selves tell us not to hope for what is impossible

Here I sit, still on this earth, still aching and longing for heaven, but living confined by this earthly shell.

Thus, I am reminded as I stand at my dad’s grave
to linger over
to wait upon
to enjoy
to bask in
to rest in
Christ’s presence
because there the scent of heaven is strong.

I ache for time with Him, for moments of worship and soaking in His Word.  Not to rush through and get done, shutting up Bible to turn on television or answer email.  Instead to sit quiet and still, me the saved one with Him the Savior.

This is how I “set (my) mind on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2).  This is how I respond as He calls me to “Come awake” and to exit tombs of unbelief and fatigue, of people pleasing and fear, of comfort and complacency, of hurt and brokenness.  I exit the tomb and rise to my Risen Lord.

David Crowder Band: Come Awake
Come awake, from sleep arise
You were dead, become alive
Wake up, wake up, open your eyes
Climb from your grave into the light
Bring us back to life

You are not the only one who feels like the only one
Night soon will be lifted, friend
Just be quiet and wait for a voice that will say
Rise, rise, to life, to life

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

Shelter in the Storm, Part II

“Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind” (Job 38:1, NASB)

With my husband’s Saturday chores and projects for the day finished, I spotted my opportunity.  I could leave my home and run errands by myself.  Yes, that meant no children along for the ride or little people to shuttle in and out of stores.  No behavior to monitor or lectures to be given.  No looking at products we don’t need costing money I don’t have and saying  “no” to children who declare they need them.  No driving in the car and reaching over to turn the music down or off every 30 seconds so I could answer a question or solve a sibling dispute.

I could feel the tension in me, in my voice, in my reactions, in the speed at which I was cleaning the house and grumbling (Didn’t I just clean this?  How many times do I put these things away every day?  Why are there shoes on the floor again and why are they in the middle of the floor? Who walks 4 feet into a room and then decides to take their shoes off?).  A birthday party had brought new, exciting, wonderful gifts into our home, gifts that were now being played with all over the floor that I had just cleared of toys the night before.

It had been too long since I had left my home by myself.  And so, off I went, list in hand showing what I needed to accomplish.  I went to the first store, used my coupon, bought my necessary items, checked it off my list.  So far, so good.  A little overcast, a slight misting in the air, the wind blowing my hair in my eyes periodically, but nothing too troubling.

Back in my car, I flicked on the radio to my favorite classical music station.  Sometimes without children along, I enjoy music without words.  Expecting Bach, I heard instead hillbilly rock ( I think).  Whatever it was, it was thoroughly un-relaxing.  Confused, I scanned through the stations.  My music had disappeared and been replaced with what the DJ announced was the “best music in the universe.”  I was doubtful.  I was also now whining and fretting.  What happened to my radio station?  Was it an interruption caused by the stormy weather on the way or was this a long-term travesty not just ruining my day, but ruining my future, as well?

On I drove.  My spirit rumbling, grumbling, complaining and whining now.  I spotted a McDonald’s and was inspired.  A large sweet tea for $1 would certainly improve my day and so I ordered and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Twelve minutes later, they had finally served the person in front of me and I pulled up to the window where a cheerfully apologetic woman handed me the drink that took all of 10 seconds to fix and said, “Sorry for your wait.”  I smiled weakly and drove away.

The rumbling in my spirit grew.  My wonderful, precious, much-anticipated time out was not refreshing or relaxing or productive.  It was ruined by inconvenience and disappointment and impatience.

The sky seemed darker now than before.  On the radio, the DJ for the mystery music station announced that in Virginia they were calling for severe thunderstorms, hail and maybe tornadoes.  She didn’t say when any of this might happen.  She didn’t even tell me where in Virginia this might occur.  So, this new radio station has yucky music and unhelpful DJ’s.  Just great.

I whined some more.

And then I felt it, a heaviness on my heart, a deep impression that I could not shake—-it was not okay for me to drive across the bridge and finish my errands across the river.  I needed to stay in my tiny town, do what I could here and go home.  I grumbled to God that this was my only opportunity to complete these errands unaccompanied, that my upcoming weekly calendar was covered from edge-to-edge with things I needed to do and places I needed to be.  If I didn’t go now, I wouldn’t get to go all week.  I wanted to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it.

I complained.  The sky was deep gray now.  Turning my car around, I drove away from the bridge and finished the errands I could do in town–obeying, but not cheerfully obeying.

Arriving home, I fixed dinner and watched my daughters play with my husband.  The power flickered off and on.  It rained.

Then, the news came in, pictures, videos, Facebook posts, phone calls to see if we were okay.   A tornado had touched down just miles away, hitting the connecting road to our street.  The middle school had an entire wing destroyed.  Frames of homes had been lifted up and mangled around trees.  Our hospital’s emergency room was crowded to overflowing and people were sent across the river for care.  People were missing, a few dead.  The only hotel in town filled up with families now homeless.

The book of Job describes a man battling his own life-storm–the death of his children and servants, the loss of his livestock and livelihood, and the personal pain of boils on his skin. For almost the entire book, Job and his “friends” talk and talk and talk some more about God.  And then God shows up in person: “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind” (Job 38:1, NASB).  God spoke to Job through the tornado—perhaps knowing that was the only to make these “talking heads” be quiet.  Sometimes God needs to use a raging storm to get our attention and to stop our incessant personal noise and natural bent toward self-centeredness.

After God spoke, Job did the wisest thing a man could do.  He said, “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?  I put my hand over my mouth” (Job 40:4, NIV).  And that is what I did in the aftermath of the storm.  I stood silent.  Hadn’t I just whined because my radio station was missing, because I had to wait for a drink, because I didn’t get to go where I wanted to go, and yet just miles away a family now had no home?  Sometimes it takes a whirlwind to put things into perspective, to remind me once again that inconvenience from without and impatience from within have too much power over the attitudes of my heart. 

It’s a matter of my misplaced focus.  At times, I begin to look only at me, me, me and the things I want and need, and Jesus Christ is no longer the center of my life.  Selfishness is at the heart of my whining and complaining about minor annoyances and trivialities.

C.S. Lewis wrote: “From the moment a creature becomes aware of God as God and of itself as self, the terrible alternative of choosing God or self for the center is opened to it.”

It’s a discipline of choosing God over self that takes effort and vigilance.  So, daily we must choose to place and replace Christ at the center of our lives, letting Him have full reign over our circumstances and our heart’s responses to them.

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

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