What astronauts put on first (and other lessons from outer space)

psalm 104

In one corner of the exhibit, a crowd gathered around the volunteer standing next to the space toilet and explaining how astronauts go to the bathroom in zero gravity.

A few steps away, an older volunteer stood next to a space suit holding up pieces of astronaut gear.  Every time a new group walked over to him, he started into his speech: “Here is the one thing astronauts put on first” as he holds up a diaper.

Kids wrinkled up their noses and giggled with embarrassment.

The museum guides at the National Air & Space Museum sure know how to attract a crowd.  Of course, once they have your attention, they explain more than bathroom mechanics in outer space.

My youngest daughter, as she puts it, “Loves space. I loves everything about space.”

So, for her sixth birthday, we made the trip to the museum to celebrate.

We wandered through exhibits about planets, peered through telescopes and watched videos of shuttle launches.

It’s a humbling experience to stand in front of an exhibit that plots our point on planet earth and then earth in the solar system in the galaxy in the universe.

A week before, I had read an online article about an upcoming meteor shower, how if you stayed up until about midnight on one particular night, you could see shooting stars all across the night sky.

I’ve never seen a shooting star in my life.

So, I dared to stay awake and then dragged a fleece blanket and a small pillow out to my deck and watched.

And waited…..

I saw at least five airplanes, one shooting star and one other maybe-shooting star out of the corner of my eye.

You can’t sit still in the quiet of midnight watching the night sky and not be struck by the vastness of it all and the smallness of you.

In a world of social media that too often feels so noisy and all about us, how powerful to see it’s really all about Him.

Then there’s clicking through the images that New Horizons sent back of Pluto.  It took nine years for this spacecraft to make it out there and the first images of the flyby made it to us in July 2015.

I sat at my kitchen table and yelled for my kids to come over to see this incredible outline of a heart on Pluto’s surface.

“Come check this out!” I told them.

I felt incredibly vindicated when I saw that astronomers themselves are indeed calling it Pluto’s “heart” (so I’m not just crazy and making things up).

Seeing the impression of a heart so beautifully etched on the side of a distant dwarf planet expands your vision a bit.

What a great, grand universe.

What a great, marvelous God.

How detailed He is.  How artistic.  How creative and powerful.

How He must have chuckled when the first images of Pluto’s heart spot finally made it back to little ol’ us.

He engraved these details and all this beauty on the most distant reaches of the world and the universe.

Then, like an excited parent, He waited as we hunted for the treasure, made the discovery and finally tore off the wrapping paper of this long-planned gift.

And to think that this God of greatness is mindful of us, loves us, listens to us and tends to us.

No wonder the Psalmist wrote:

Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
    and let us exalt his name together!
(Psalm 34:3 ESV).

Magnify Him.

My thoughts default to the microscope at the museum, how it magnifies the tiniest specks of detail so that we can see the microscopic with our limited human eyes.

I think of the magnifying glass my kids use to blow up our faces to huge distorted proportions and how they laugh at our nose and eyes out of proportion.

We usually magnify to make the small bigger.

But that’s not what magnify means in this Psalm.  We don’t take a small God and make Him bigger.

As Louie Giglio says in Passion:

There’s telescopic magnification and microscope magnification, and it’s blasphemy to magnify God like a microscope…But a telescope puts its lens on unimaginable expanses of greatness and tries simply to help them look more like what they are. That’s what a telescope is for.

Shining our telescope of faith on God doesn’t make Him bigger than He is, it helps us see how big He really is.

Half an hour staring into a night sky, a day walking the exhibit of a space museum, a few minutes clicking through images of a distant dwarf planet, and I’m saying like the Psalmist:

Oh, magnify the Lord with me!

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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 © 2015 Heather King

 

I Bring Mess; He Brings Beauty

“But you remain the same, and your years will never end” (Psalm 102:27).

“Mom, I know how to spell the word ‘kissing.’”Photo by Viktor Hanacek

That’s what my daughter told me when she was in first grade.

I wonder how to answer.  Marvel over her accomplishment?  Ask to see her spelling list?

Finally, I decide to stick with Classic Mom: “Wow, that’s a pretty big word.  Spell it for me.”

Immediately, my first grader breaks out into the full-voiced sing-songy chant:

 “K-I-S-S-I-N-G
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.”

Some things never change.

The same chants, the same games, the same tears, the same laughs, the same hand-claps and rhymes and teasing from generation right on to the next.

Some things never seem to change with me either.

The truth is I need a Savior.  I can make 50 resolutions a day not to lose my temper with my kids, but the moment my poky child pits herself against this super-speed mom, I fail.

In my own, the holding it together and the being perfect don’t happen. I find myself sitting in the pupil’s chair again, learning the same lesson from God that He taught me last year, and the year before that, and year after year after perpetual year.

In lessons of patience, grace, love and flexibility, I learn so slow.

But there’s something else that never changes.

God.

He’s immutable, unchanging, “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), who doesn’t alter “like shifting shadows” (James 1:17)

In all of my wayward sameness, I choose to go back to the beginning.

That same God, who stared at the dark shapeless mess and saw the potential beauty of the created earth sees beauty in me, as well.  He sees it in you.

No one but God could have seen the potential in that pre-Creation space. Genesis 1:2 tells us, “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”treasure

Formless, empty and dark.

And God said, “Let there be light.”

Our God can make glorious possibilities out of nothingness, painting the sky onto a blank canvas.

He is original and uniquely imaginative, designing solutions that our finite minds could never have achieved.  That means when I am hopeless with no possibility of salvation, I know my God can create a solution that is beyond my comprehension.

And I know He can bring order to the most disordered and messy aspects of my life just as He shaped the earth out of what was “formless and void.”

So when it comes to the things that just don’t seem to change in me, it’s best for me to “let go, and let God.”  I struggle and strive to do the work of self-improvement, only to fail at the first sign of stress.

But when I call on the name of Jesus and bring the messy disorder of it all to Him, He sifts through the mud and mire and brings forth treasure.

It takes honesty, though, the heart-felt, soul-bearing truth when we finally just say, “God, this is a mess.  I can’t do it.  I’ve tried.  I’m a failure at this.  I’ve done it again.  I’ve fallen into the pit.”

When we finally stop pretending to be perfect, then and only then, can Jesus get busy creating, forming, cleaning, and ordering the mess we’ve brought to His feet.

Lisa Harper wrote,

Our Redeemer will carefully help us sort the treasures from the trash.  If we’ll just be honest about the emotional boxes we’ve squirreled away, Jesus will take charge of the cleaning process (Stumbling Into Grace).

Our honesty allows God to do the dirty work of changing us.  So, even when it’s painful, and even when it’s slow, and even when it’s hard, we know that we really aren’t staying the same.  The lessons may be the same-old, same-old, and yet our never-changing, immutable God teaches us a bit more and goes a little bit deeper.

We’re growing.  Sometimes in shoots and spurts.  Sometimes in painful inches.

Sometimes we can’t see the change at all, but our roots far below the surface are digging deeper down, planting us firm into the soil so that God can do the visible work later without toppling us right on over.

We’re changing.  But, praise God, He’s not.  He’s what really never changes.  With all His patience, and all His grace, with the love that manages to see beauty in our mess, He’s the Ever-Faithful Creator and we His beloved creation.

What messes do you need to hand over to our Creator God today?

Originally posted 11/4/2011

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I ‘Create Beauty’?

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 Curtain, Alice, Cinderella and God’s Custom Design

She wanted to be Alice, she said.

This year, they celebrated Dr. Seuss’s birthday by dressing as their favorite literary character at my kids’ school.

We have the world’s largest dress-up collection.  This should have been easy.

But we do not own a pre-made costume for Alice during her whimsical Wonderland adventures, which meant we needed to make one.

Creativity, sewing, costuming—not my best things.

But surely, I thought, someone in my town must have once owned a white pinafore-style apron perfect for an Alice costume and large enough to fit a third grade girl.

And surely said person wanted to pass that on to someone else by donating it to a local thrift store or selling it at a consignment shop or yard sale on the very weekend when I needed such an apron.

So, we shopped.Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_wolfelarry'>wolfelarry / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

All afternoon I shopped.

I did not find an apron.

I did, however, find a curtain with white eyelets and ruffles reminiscent of an Alice apron.

Many women could have snipped and sewn that curtain into an apron in about 15 minutes.

I took an hour or more.  It was an extended evening project complete with ripping out the seams where I messed up and re-sewing what I got wrong.

But in the end, I held up that custom-made curtain-to-apron (complete with a pocket!!!) and felt real and true pride like I may never have felt before in my life.

I had overcome my allergy to crafts and my sewing machine phobia.  I had labored and been found worthy.  I had toiled and reveled in my success.

Or something like that. I was super proud.

Last week, my second daughter announced she needed a pauper Cinderella costume for her song in the school talent show and that meant she needed an apron.

But not an Alice apron.  A Cinderella apron.

See the difference?

Dear children, have mercy.

So, I adjust the original design and adapt, turning the curtain that had become Alice into Cinderella.

At some point in the 9 years of being a mom to daughters, I have become a seamstress who produces custom designs; not a good one, perhaps, but after all, we all have our limits.

And while I’m still apt to prick my finger with the needle and still have to pull out the instruction manual every time I have to re-thread my sewing machine or my bobbin (wow, I know what a bobbin is!!), still I sew.

Still I stumble along into creativity so that I can draw near in the presence of the Creator.

Because God, He is this expert artist.

I read in Colossians:

 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him (Colossians 1:15 ESV)

In He is My All, Debbie Alsdorf writes:

 “By Him and for Him.  Those few words give new meaning to my life.  They are my personal slogan.  They explain what I love for and who I live for….those words—by Him and for Him—-simplify my purpose and meaning.  They simplify my choices and help me focus on what’s important (He is My All, p. 82).

God teaches me between stitches and threads that He is the Custom Designer.

You and me—Alice, Cinderella—whoever we are, we are by Him and for Him, handmade.

Not just who we are, either, but He weaves in this also: what we’re placed here to do.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).

You are made by Him and for His purposes and what you’re doing right here and now, it may not seem life-changing, world-altering, stage-worthy, award-winning, or crowd-gathering, but it is of value to Him.

This home…this husband…these children….this ministry….this friendship….this job….this calling….this waiting….this service….

He has designed You for this…

and this for you.

So, feeling insufficient?  Feeling restless?  Feeling unworthy?  Feeling unnecessary?  Feeling uncertain?  Feeling overwhelmed?  

Remember His custom design and the way He creates perfection, and the way He creates beauty all in His time.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I ‘Create Beauty’?

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

 

Twist, Wrap, Glue….Trust: Pursuing the Presence of Christ Through Creativity

I don’t really create so much as I copy and adapt.

Those pictures on Pinterest, the photos in that project book, the links on Facebook, all entice me to pull out the hot glue gun, some fabric or paper scraps and make a huge mess, take up far more time than I expect, and finally gaze with pride on what I created…..I mean copied.fabric flowers

I’ve been wrapping strips of fabric into flowers and covering my hands into a hot mess of “Liquid Stitch” and stabbing my fingers with the needle when I try to sew the button into the center.

I’ve taken someone else’s ideas and made them my own.

I’ve wrapped the fabric too loosely now and my flower unravels.  I begin again.  Twist, wrap, glue, twist, wrap, glue.

As I try and try (and try) again, I mediate on this:

God started from nothing.

 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters (Genesis 1:2 NIV).

No McCall’s pattern.  No Pinterest.  No step-by-step directions on the DIY channel.  No classes at Michael’s or demonstrations at Jo-Ann Fabrics.

He takes that void, that nothingness, and He brings the fullness of His plans and design with the power of His Word alone.  Then He “saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:25 NIV).

In May, I’m continuing my 12 months of pursuing the presence of Christ by sewing and baking, gardening and gluing.  I’m ‘creating’ because this is who God is.  This is His nature.  His character.

If I want to know the joy of His presence, then I join Him in His activity.

Sally Clarkson writes in The Mission of Motherhood:

Creativity is such an integral part of the image of God within all of us… Whenever we adapt an idea or try a different approach to an issue or give our personal spin to a particular endeavor, we are learning a little more about our God-given nature and the nature of our creative God.

God….He’s Creator.  God…He’s creative.

He creates beauty.  He brings light into the dark places and hope into the hopeless situations.  He brings order into chaos and joy from mourning.

I pause and examine the flower I’ve made with a critic’s eye.  It’s not exactly like that Pinterest picture.  Nothing I make ever really is.

But the beauty of its originality grows on me.  Maybe I like it well enough.  It’s perhaps a little unexpected, maybe a little unplanned, but it’s a flower and it’s fabric and in it’s own particular way, it’s created for beauty.

So, why do I insist that this Creator God who is able to do “far more than all I ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3) and can speak a few words out into a formless universe and create a planet of complex life and intricate and breathtaking beauty….

Why do I insist that He do things my way?

I do this.  I pray, “God, here’s my need.  I’m hopeless here without You. Please reach right here into this pit and save me and here’s how….”

I’ve given Him agendas, to-do lists, blueprints, and step-by-step instructions. I’ve given Him 5-year plans and 10-year plans and custom orders for the needs I face that day.

I cling to my plan and argue like a lawyer in a courtroom before an unyielding judge, and then with just a few simple words He creates and I am stunned into silence and worship.

What God does over and over is create an entirely unexpected solution for the mess I’m in.

Yet, it’s perfect.  It’s exquisite.

I think of Mary, loving Jesus as she did, the mother who rocked Him and sang to Him in the night.

She brought to Him a problem in John 2 at the Cana wedding feast.  No more wine for the guests, she told Him.  The host of the party would be so embarrassed, she told Him.

And that’s where she stopped.

She didn’t tangle Him all up in her expectations, her solutions, her suggestions or demands.

No, she laid that problem right into His hands and trusted Him to care for it in His own way.

She gave Him the opportunity to create.

I look at the stack of fabric flowers I’ve made and they form for me a prayer:

God, help me remember that You are the Masterful Creator and I can trust You.  You make all things beautiful in Your time.  Whatever need I have or problem I face, I leave in Your hands.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I ‘Create Beauty’?

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

 

What I Saw When I Took the Time to See

This month I’ve learned some things are worth the stopping…

and the pausing….

and the braking and the breaking….

so I can worship the Beautiful One who made such beauty.

I read in the Our Daily Bread Devotional Bible about this botanical garden on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls and a plaque there:

“Enter, friends, and view God’s pleasant handiwork, the embroidery of earth.”

So He does embroider this beauty, His handiwork: Handmade, God-stitched, beloved creation that glorifies its Creator.

I have dropped my armload of worldly goods right on the ground to take a picture of a butterfly.

butterflyingarden

I have pulled my minivan over to snap a picture of the sunset.

sunset

I have walked with eyes wide open.

walks1 walks2

I have listened to the symphony and strolled through the gardens.

purple tulips

cw gardens

I have dug in the dirt of my own little plot.

mint

And I have watched these butterflies emerge from the chrysalis and then fly free.

butterflies

Have you been on this quest for beauty, too?  And have you found what I have found?

For God is sheer beauty,
    all-generous in love,
    loyal always and ever 
(Psalm 100:5 MSG).

And have You worshiped in response and isn’t worship the only response when You’re seeking His Presence and You see these glimpses of His beauty in the beauty He has made?

I sing:

You are all my heart longs for
The treasure and the hunger
I’ve tasted and I must have more
Of Your Presence, God

You call me deeper than before
I’m falling further into You God
You are just so beautiful
I love Your Presence, God
(Presence, by Kathryn Scott)

and I sing…

The fullness of Your grace is here with me
The richness of Your beauty’s all I see
The brightness of Your glory has arrived
In Your presence God I’m completely satisfied
(Divine Romance by Phil Wickham)

I posted these pictures all month long on my Facebook page as I took breaks for beauty.  Did you miss them?  You can follow my Facebook page here so you don’t miss out again!

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I ‘Enjoy Beauty’?

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

Will Break for Beauty Because Eden Is What We Were Meant For

We took a day off for beauty.

We climbed into the minivan for a drive on a sunny, warm-but-not-too-warm day, passing horse farms and the river, watching sunlight burst through the tops of trees.

Sitting along the edge of the beach, we tipped over buckets of moistened sand to form sand castles.  Pine needles and lost feathers, bits of shell and pebbles smoothed by the waves became castle flags and decorations.

Then we walked and collected treasures washed ashore by the tide.

Children see treasures in ways we do not.  I picked up unbroken shells, shiny, smooth, etched with color and patterns.

My little one picked up massive clam shells covered in barnacles and sand, murky in color and awkwardly shaped.  She handed me slivers of broken shells and even tried putting fistfuls of sand in her treasure bucket.

It was beauty to her.

What is it about the seaside that brings peace to the soul?  Maybe it’s the rhythm of the waves, the comfort of knowing that the wave will come and another and another, in constant motion, totally faithful, reliable, trustworthy.

And that is our God.  He doesn’t wash over us and then pull back never to return again. He brings wave after wave of ever-coming, perpetual grace.  The world is an uncertain teeter-totter of a place, with unexpected terrors lurking around corners and surprises that drop us to the ground.

But God—He is faithful.  God—-He is always grace.  God—He is ever true.

That night, we raced home to eat dinner and become beautiful: Choosing outfits, doing hair.  The girls fought over bracelets.  We traveled to see the Ballet Magnificat, a professional Christian ballet company.

The music began.  Just instruments at first.  The dancers took to the stage and one lone female voice sang,“Praise the Lord, O my soul and let all that is within me praise His name.”

One ballerina stretched her arms high in worship.  Her fingers almost touched heaven she was so long and outstretched.

And I caught my breath at the total abandon in praise to a God so worthy.

That day, we took a break for beauty.  We paused and lingered long with friends and we filled our souls in the deep wells of nature and dance and worship.  It was like brushing against the curtain of heaven.

Our God did it on purpose, putting those first two human beings in a garden, and we long for that Eden even now.  He created us for that place of intimacy in His presence surrounded by beauty.  Stasi Eldredge says it here:

Beauty reminds us of an Eden we have never known, but somehow our hearts were created for.

Scripture reminds me that God is Himself beautiful:

One thing I ask from the Lord,
    this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
    and to seek him in his temple
(Psalm 27:4)

And God is a Creator of beauty:

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

In Captivating, Stasi Eldredge says:

Beauty is transcendent. It is our most immediate experience of the eternal (Stasi Eldredge).

God makes all things beautiful in time—and He has set eternity itself in our hearts.  We long for it, ache for the day when we see the transformation He intends, see the untainted beauty of a sinless world.ecclesiastes3

And so glimpses of beauty here and now stir our hearts for heaven, for eternal glory with Him.

In my 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, I’m breaking for beauty in the month of April, because, as Margaret Brownley writes,

Beauty puts a face on God and makes his presence known (Margaret Brownley, Grieving God’s Way).

I’m digging deep into garden soil.  I’m trekking through a botanical garden. I’m watching caterpillars form that chrysalis and then climb out as butterflies.  I’m listening to concerts and walking the halls of museums.

There has to be intentionality here.  We can get so distracted by that tyrannical urgent, so caught up in the rush and noise of the day.

After beauty fills you up, it too often spills out and sloshes over the sides of your heart every time there is rushing, stress, tension, worry, boredom, work, monotony. 

We must work hard to protect the memory and refill often by taking a break for beauty and by seeking the soul-filling glory of God’s presence.

Will you join me this month?

 

 

To hear the song by Kristene Mueller that began Ballet Magnificat‘s performance, you can click here or click Play on the video below from the blog.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I ‘Enjoy Beauty’?

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

Help!

They say knowledge is power, but language has its own particular potency.

After all, when you can finally cram all of your emotion, thoughts, and need into one or two perfect words, it helps relieve the pressure.

It was true for my oldest daughter when she was still wobbling between baby and toddler.  My job as a mom was to help harness some of her passion, help her direct some of that God-given strength—all by showing her how to put into words what she needed and how she was feeling.

But at little more than one years old, what is there to say?

So I taught her one powerful word to capture my attention instead of tantrums, screaming  514885-R1-24-24fits, and bouts with hysteria that turned her face red and plain wore mommy out.

“Help!”

When you can’t figure out the puzzle, when the toy isn’t working, when you can’t reach, when your buttons won’t fasten….. when life is difficult and you just can’t do it on your own and you’re collapsing into rage and tears of frustration and failure….”Help!” is all you need say.

It quickly became the favorite, most oft-used word in her vocabulary.  “Help, Mommy” I’d hear all through the day.

What I failed to teach her, though, was how to gauge the seriousness of the situation and adjust the volume and tone of her “help” accordingly.

Thus, friends on the phone would hear my little one screaming “Help! Help!” at the top of her lungs when all she needed was the top yanked off a marker or a new outfit buttoned on her baby doll.

I can’t say I’ve figured it out any more than she did, when to scream out “help” in desperation and when to quietly lift my hands high for assistance, when to whisper hushed pleas for intervention and when to just sob and let the Holy Spirit intercede for me.

But I know that sometimes, maybe lots of the time, what I need is help.  It’s not any more complicated than that.  I can pray at God (or nag at Him) for hours; I can explain and complain, whine and appeal.

Really, though, “Help” would do just fine.

The Psalmist knew this.  He asked, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?” (Psalm 121).

It’s a traveler’s Psalm, a song of ascension sung by the Israelite pilgrims on their journey to Jerusalem to worship.  The Psalmist literally lifts his eyes higher and higher along the skyline, a reminder of just how small he really is—just a regular guy on a valley trail beside the vastness of a mountain’s peak.

So, where to look for help?  To nature, to fellow travelers, to the material goods he’s packed neatly into his bags for the journey?  To false gods who weren’t even mighty enough to create the very mountains in his view?

No, he declares, “my help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2).

God formed these very mountains.  He’s so grand, so magnificent, so creative, so capable. All of these other idols I’ve been looking to are weak, helpless, disappointing, and distracting. 

And if I’m screaming out for “help” or dropping to my knees in a confession of weakness, it’s a God that mighty I need to answer.

And He does answer.  That one word, “help,” always gets His attention.

The pilgrims explain it in metaphors from their journey.  How does God help?

He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
  indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
  the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

Protection from scorching heat and the coolness of night, the rocks along the path and the obstacles in the road; this is what God gives them.  This is what He gives us.

In the original Hebrew, the Psalmist pushes His point in verses 7 and 8, saying essentially: “The Lord is your protector! The Lord will protect you from all harm! The Lord will protect your life! The Lord will protect your coming and going now and always!” (Beth Moore, Stepping Up).

Our translations soften the repetition, saying instead

The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever.

But the intent  of the repetition is to say it so clearly and so often, to repeat it so much that even a forgetful, wayward, worrier of a soul like me can’t miss this promise:

The Lord Will Protect You.

We only need lift our eyes to His face and ask for His help.

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 the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Remembering: Some Things Never Change

Originally posted 11/4/2011

“But you remain the same, and your years will never end” (Psalm 102:27).

“Mom, I know how to spell the word ‘kissing.’”

To myself, I think, “That’s kind of a strange word to show up on the first grade spelling list, but okay.”

Aloud, I say, “Wow, that’s a pretty big word.  Spell it for me.”

Immediately, my first grader breaks out into the full-voiced sing-songy chant:

“K-I-S-S-I-N-G
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.”

Some things never change.

The same chants, the same games, the same tears, the same laughs, the same hand-claps and rhymes and teasing from generation right on to the next.

Some things never seem to change with me either.

The truth is I need a Savior.  I can make 50 resolutions a day not to lose my temper with my kids, but the moment my poky kindergartener pits herself against this super-speed mom, the explosions begin.

In my own, the holding it together and the being perfect don’t happen. I find myself sitting in the pupil’s chair again, learning the same lesson from God that He taught me last year, and the year before that, and year after year for as long as I can recall.

In lessons of patience, grace, love and flexibility, I can be a pretty slow learner.

But there’s something else that never changes.

God.

He’s immutable, unchanging, “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), who doesn’t alter “like shifting shadows” (James 1:17)

So, it gives me hope in all of my wayward sameness, to go back, all the way back to the beginning. That same God, who stared at the dark shapeless mess and saw the potential beauty of the created earth sees beauty in me, as well.  He sees it in you.

No one but God could have seen the potential in that pre-Creation space. Genesis 1:2 tells us, “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”

Formless, empty and dark.

And God said, “Let there be light.”

The fact of our Creator God mounts my faith on the firmest of foundations.  I know He can make glorious possibilities out of nothingness, painting the sky onto a blank canvas.

I know He can be original and uniquely imaginative, designing solutions that our finite minds could never have achieved—like how fish “breathe” under water.  That means when I am hopeless with no possibility of salvation, I know my God can create a solution that is beyond my comprehension.

And I know He can bring order to the most disordered and messy aspects of my life just as He shaped the earth out of what was “formless and void.”

So when it comes to the things that just don’t seem to change in me, it’s best for me to “let go, and let God.”  I struggle and strive to do the work of self-improvement, only to fail at the first sign of stress.

But when I call on the name of Jesus and bring the messy disorder of it all to Him, He sifts through the mud and mire and brings forth treasure.

It takes honesty, though, the heart-felt, soul-bearing truth when we finally just say, “God, this is a mess.  I can’t do it.  I’ve tried.  I’m a failure at this.  I’ve done it again.  I’ve fallen into the pit.”

When we finally stop pretending to be perfect, then and only then, can Jesus get busy creating, forming, cleaning, and ordering the mess we’ve brought to His feet.

Lisa Harper wrote,

Our Redeemer will carefully help us sort the treasures from the trash.  If we’ll just be honest about the emotional boxes we’ve squirreled away, Jesus will take charge of the cleaning process.

Our honesty allows God to do the dirty work of changing us.  So, even when it’s painful, and even when it’s slow, and even when it’s hard, we know that we really aren’t staying the same.  The lessons may be the same-old, same-old, and yet our never-changing, immutable God teaches us a bit more and goes a little bit deeper.

We’re growing.  Sometimes in shoots and spurts.  Sometimes in painful inches.

Sometimes we can’t see the change at all, but our roots far below the surface are digging deeper down, planting us firm into the soil so that God can do the visible work later without toppling us right on over.

We’re changing.  But, praise God, He’s not.  He’s what really never changes.  With all His patience, and all His grace, with the love that manages to see beauty in our mess, He’s the Ever-Faithful Creator and we His beloved creation.

What messes do you need to hand over to our Creator God today?

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: Adding that personal touch

Whenever I give my daughters a birthday card to sign, I never know what might end up written on the inside.

At some point, they generally remember to scratch out their names, but along the way they’ll do things like:

sign it from every other member of the family also—-even when it’s a card for a school friend who doesn’t know any of us.

sign their entire first, middle and last names, even on a card for their dad, who most likely picked out their names in the first place.

declare themselves “your best friend with love” and sound more like Anne of Green Gables with all her poetic flare instead of a first grader.

sketch pictures of themselves and their friend, hearts, their family, puppy dogs, rainbows, cats, birds, flowers, their houses, and more.

In the end, the card is signed, but never in the expected, conventional way.  Sometimes that’s a little frightening as I look over their shoulders and wonder if they’ll ever venture into the truly outrageous.

When I notice they’re writing and writing and writing when a simple “Love Lauren” or “From Victoria” would suffice, I start asking nervously, “What are you putting in there?  What are you writing next?  What are you saying?”

Ultimately, though, it’s fun to see their personal style and unique touch.

I’ve been thinking today about the way God rescues us from trouble: How it’s so rarely in the expected, conventional way from planned sources and anticipated possibilities.  It doesn’t often happen according to our own plans.  He is, after all, a creative God, able to do far more than we expect or imagine.

I’m meditating on a verse all this week that reminds me that God is able to save us, but He’ll do so with His own personal touch and divine fingerprint.  Unlike us, He isn’t confined by physical resources or limited in imagination, talent, scope or skill.  He’ll choose a method of rescue not because it’s the only one He can manage, but because it brings glory to His name.  And nothing can stand in the way of that.

“Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few”
1 Samuel 14:6

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

VBS Lessons: No Matter What Happens

All week long I’m thinking about the Bible points for our Vacation Bible School and what they mean for adults.  This week will be a mix of some old and some new as I share these lessons.

Tonight at Sky VBS! (Group Publishing), we’re learning: No Matter What Happens…Trust God!

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“I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love”
Romans 8:38

There are times when I take prayer requests at the close of a meeting almost reluctantly, not because I don‘t care or because I don‘t want to pray.  It’s just that the requests seem so big and I feel the heaviness of them.

That perpetual litany of need, of cancer; mystery illnesses; the death of babies, husbands–and marriages; lost jobs and shattered finances seems like darkness with light, pain without hope.

I feel an affinity for the disciples in the three dark days between the cross and the resurrection, a silent understanding of their pain.  In “Valleys Fill First,” Caedmon’s Call sang: “It’s like that long Saturday between your death and the rising day, when no one wrote a word and wondered is this the end.”

Yes, that was the terror of looking at the cross and standing at a grave and thinking it was all over.

Days after riding through the streets of Jerusalem cheered by the crowd, Jesus had been captured, put on trial, crucified, and shut up in an impenetrable tomb, leaving the disciples overwhelmed, confused, and without hope.  They questioned everything they had seen, heard, and believed about Jesus just days before.

Then, they had confessed Him as Messiah.
Now, their Messiah was dead.

Then, they had seen Him raise Lazarus and others from the dead.
Now, His own death seemed unconquerable.

They had been catapulted into darkness and all of God’s promises and even their personal testimonies were called into question.

In the dark places, we too forget.  Surrounded by pain and despair, we allow circumstances to determine our view of God.  The physical “reality” of death, sickness, financial insecurity, and broken relationships tells us God isn’t loving, God won’t provide, God isn’t at work on our behalf.

When faced with tough circumstances, David also asked God some tough questions: “Will the Lord reject forever?  Will He never show His favor again?  Has His unfailing love vanished forever?  Has His promise failed for all time?  Has God forgotten to be merciful?  Has He in anger withheld His compassion?”  (Psalm 77:7-9, NIV).

Ultimately, though, David fought against these doubts by returning to what He knew was truth: “I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.  I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.” (Psalm 77:11-12, NIV). 

In the same way, we remember who our God is.  No matter what happens, we trust God.

Because He is a Creator, who can bring forth something altogether new out of nothingness.

Because He has Resurrection Power, the ability to take what is utterly dead and bring new life.

Christ’s resurrection gave the disciples new hope, real hope, true absolute belief and confirmation that their faith was more than a fairy tale, whim, emotional crutch or delusion.

So often, we use “hope” to mean little more than “good luck” or “best wishes.”  We give a friend a hug and say, “I hope you have a good day” or pat them on the back and say, “I hope you get that job you want” or “I hope your treatments work.”

We might as well be calling “heads” as we toss a coin.

Instead, because of Christ’s resurrection we have real hope for eternity.  We can have full, confident assurance in what Titus 2:13 calls “the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (NIV).  

Because of the Resurrection, we also have hope in the present.  After all, nothing is too big for a God who has power over life and death.  Jesus proved that no matter how bleak our physical reality looks and how much our five senses tell us God is not in control, He is still Lord and He can do all things.

Fortunately, our hope is in His strength and not our own.  It’s too much for us to carry around the weight of our problems and our dead circumstances.  We’re not creators. We don’t have resurrection power.  A world that relies solely on us is a hopeless place indeed.

Yet, no matter how dark our circumstances, even when we are in the closed tomb with every sign of death, we can have hope in Christ.

God, who conquered death and the grave, is working on your behalf in the here and now and also in preparation for our eternity with Him.

Instead of struggling to handle things on our own, we need to do something that is sometimes far more difficult–yield.  Cry out to Him that this weight is more than you can handle, allow Him to carry the load, and have renewed hope in God’s ability to care for you no matter how insurmountable the circumstances appear.

Would you like to hear the Caedmon’s Call song, Valleys Fill First?  Click here to follow the link or play it directly from the blog:

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