Present and Accounted For

“Where are you going, Mom?”

My three-year-old has a radar system that rings alarms and sets off alerts if there is a possibility that I am going out…and leaving her at home.

That morning, she had caught me slipping on my socks.  I reassured her, though, “Just putting on my socks because my feet are cold, baby girl.  I’m not going out.”

“You’re staying here?”
“Yes.”
“You’re not leaving?”
“No, sweetie. Mommy’s staying with you today.”

Seeing as how a hurricane raged off the coast of Virginia that morning, staying in seemed like a good idea.  We had stocked up water, canned food, and batteries and hunkered down until the storm passed.

She didn’t understand all that, though.  Snuggling in close to me, she pressed her cheek against mine and cooed, “Mommy, I stay with you.”

Of course, she can’t, not all the time, not forever, not every minute and each second of day after day after day.  But for this moment and surely in this storm, here I was snuggling with her and remaining present.

We sang it at church Sunday morning, leaving the weather reports and streaming satellite images about the approaching hurricane behind for a short time.  We gave praise, declaring, “You are My Shield, My strength, My Portion, Deliverer, My Shelter, Strong Tower, My very present help in time of need.”

This is our way of singing Psalm 46 back to God:

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
  though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging (Psalm 46:1-3). 

Normally, I sing this song imagining God as my Tower, my Shelter in the most fearsome storms.

But what good is a tower-of-brick if it isn’t nearby when you need to hide?  And what is the point of a refuge that is too far away to reach in times of distress?

It is God’s constant, faithful presence that makes Him effective as our Refuge and our Strength, our Defense and our Deliverer.

That is why “we will not fear,” not during storm or raging sea, or mountains crumbling or news reports of flooding and fire and disaster.

Because He is present.  Not just here in this moment and maybe leaving us later in the care of others while He slips out for a meeting or relaxes with friends or fills a cart with groceries at the local store.  We needn’t trip to His feet in alarm when He pulls on His socks or takes His jacket down from the pegs in the closet.

He is always, ever, constantly, faithfully, never-changing, perpetually, every second of every day present with us.

This means He didn’t close His eyes, turn His head, blink, snooze, or simply grow too distracted to care when the mountains crumbled and the waters roared.

No, our God doesn’t promise us a world without frightful shaking and uncertainty.  It’s a sin-plagued planet, aching and groaning for the perfection of eternity.  Hurting and death and sickness and tears are part of life here.

But He promises to be with us and be the strength and shelter we need for whatever rages outside.

Moses plead with God simply for this presence.  Days on that holy mountain, shining with reflected glory, and Moses still longed for more of God.

The Lord Himself promised:  “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14)

His presence.  Our rest.  Without Him, turmoil and worrying and stress.

Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:15-16).

Like Moses, we pray, knowing that without God’s presence, we are a mess and a disaster, and we are alone and lost, no different than those who don’t know Him at all.

His presence is what sets us apart.  That’s what gives us hope for each new day and peace and that’s what others should notice about us–Christ in us, the hope and glory.

Today is a day to praise God for His presence:

You Never Let Go (David Crowder* Band): “When clouds brought rain, And disaster came…When waters rose, And hope had flown.. Ever faithful, Ever true.  You I know.
You never let go

Made Me Glad (Hillsong): “He has delivered me from all fear; He has set my feet upon a rock. I will not be moved! I’ll say of the Lord, You are my Shield, my Strength, my Portion, Deliverer, my Shelter, Strong Tower, my very present help in time of need!”

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

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

How He Loves Us

If you ever see me driving down the road in my minivan and I’m clearly singing my heart out and maybe even have one hand up in the air (the other hand obviously on the wheel), I’m going to tell you right now what I’m doing because it could only be one thing.  I’m singing How He Loves with David Crowder, probably for the fifth time in a row off my iPod.  (I know this song was originally by John Mark McMillan, but I’m a huge David Crowder fan, so I’m biased to his version.)

Anyway, if you haven’t heard this song, feel free to stop reading for a moment and give it a listen here.  Go ahead, give it a listen.  I am going to stop writing and listen to it again, too.

Now, don’t you love that song?  In this series of posts this week, I’ve talked about whether God sees us, whether He’s big enough to save us and today—Does He love me enough to intervene? It’s just not possible for me to write about God’s love without the song How He Loves playing through my thoughts.

I love the reminder in this song of the powerful simplicity in this truth: He loves us.  Sometimes I need to hear that over and over and be reminded of the magnitude and weight of His love.   It’s especially true when my circumstances are difficult and I feel like I’m sinking.  As the song reminds me, “If His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking”—-not drowning in our circumstances, but enveloped by His grace.

When I take the time to truly meditate on God’s amazing love for me, I am changed.  My focus is shifted off of my failures or fears or what-ifs and fixed instead on His love.  Again, as the song says, “I don’t have time to maintain these regrets, when I think about the way that He loves us.”  It’s pretty difficult to meditate on God’s great love and be afraid or paralyzed by our past mistakes at the same time.

I wonder how my everyday life would change if I walked around fully aware of God’s love all the time.  All my self-condemnation would cease.  My worries would end because I’d know God loves me enough to care for me and not to abandon me.  I would love others more unconditionally because of the grace I myself have received.  I wouldn’t question God’s plans for me because I’d trust His love.

My life would be transformed.

Paul reminds us that our life changes when we live in the knowledge of God’s love for us:

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledgethat you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19

The Message translates verse 19 this way: “Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.”

Amazingly, we’ve done nothing to earn this love and we can do nothing to end it.  Paul writes in Romans 5:8  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  He loved us in our sin, with all of our mistakes and failures, with our lack of trust and our self-focused lives.  He loved us when we didn’t have anything to offer in return.

Life is sometimes exhilarating and sometimes frightening.  I cannot explain why we go through difficult times and why life is so hard.  But I do know that:

God sees you. He hasn’t lost you in the midst of your circumstances.  He knows your hurt and pain, as well as your joy and excitement, and He wants to walk with you at all times.

God is big enough to save you. He is mighty and powerful and has your world in His hands.

God loves you with a lavish, unconditional, and unchanging love. The Psalmist tells us God isn’t just a powerful being who doesn’t care about us.  In Psalm 62:11-12, it says,  “One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard:  that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving.”

Rest in this today—He loves you.  Oh, how He loves you.

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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.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King