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!

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

“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

And Then There’s Cancer

“God must have a better plan.”
“God always works things out for the best.”
“You can’t out-give God.”
“God always provides.  Look at the birds and the flowers.  He’ll take care of your needs, too.”
“God always comes through.”
“God’s timing is perfect.”
“God never gives you more than you can handle.”

They’re the fairy tale endings of the Christian faith, the trite promises and pat religious phrases we find ourselves spewing out simply when we don’t know how else to explain it when life is hard and overwhelming and scary.

Like when there’s cancer.

Like when there’s starvation and bloating hunger in villages where there simply is no food—not in anyone’s home, not in a local church running a food pantry, not at a grocery store where you can beg for a loaf of bread from other shoppers.

How do we dare make life sound simple, flowery, and easy when it’s not?  This is the conversation I had with a friend this week.

A few days later, in a sanctuary filled with mourners, corporately grieving the loss of a beautiful Christian woman to breast cancer, a few stood up to share their memories and thoughts about her life.  The rest of us passed tissues down the rows and echoed sniffles.

One woman stood and said something I don’t think I’ll ever forget.  In one of their last conversations together, sitting across from a woman so ill from the cancer recurrence filling her lungs with fluid and sapping strength from her limbs, they agreed that they felt beaten down by the promises in Scripture.

They knew death was near and they did not think they’d see the healing, deliverance, restoration, and happy ending they had so longed for, they had prayed for, and that the “happy filter” of God’s promises would make you expect.

So now what?

I remember the moment also when I sat by my dad’s death bed.  He was decrepit, a large man shrunken down to frail bones.  He was living in a sick shell of a body.  Once so witty and smart, boisterous and just plain big in his personality and manner, now he was a trapped soul, mostly in a coma, no longer in control of his body or mind—totally dependent on others, mostly unaware, mostly unresponsive.

I believed and I still believe that the God who could call Lazarus to step out of a tomb, throw off grave clothes and come to life again could have healed my dad at any time, even when death seemed imminent, as in any second near.

But He didn’t.  God chose not to heal that time.  He chose not to heal the woman we remembered at her memorial service this weekend.

What then?

In tears, the woman sharing at the memorial service said that when they felt totally beaten down, like their faith had just been battered and bashed, her friend facing death said, “Then we must pray and ask God to make us more tender.”

Please make me tender, Lord.  Use these times of sadness and the seasons we don’t understand, the moments when faith is so hard to stand on and the promises of Scripture seem too simple to hold true, please then make my heart tender again. 

What other response can there be at times but bitterness?

It’s something I’d never considered before, but both Paul and Peter urged believers to be tenderhearted:

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

and

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind” (1 Peter 3:8).

This tender heart so often develops when we ourselves feel broken and beaten down and we are made soft and receptive in the process.ephesians4

If our faith depends on quick answers to prayer and fairy tale lives with superficially happy endings, we’ll be hardened to the needs of others, uncomprehending when they share out of their pain and unmoved by compassion when we see their brokenness.

Not only that, but if our faith doesn’t depend on the Rock of God and His character, but instead stands only on happy (and often misquoted and taken out of context) Christian catch-phrases, we’ll watch the wind and waves of the storm demolish and destroy our houses on the sand (Matthew 7).

We don’t necessarily need enough faith to calm any storm, to walk on the water in the midst of a tempest or sit unmoved and unafraid when our boat seems ready to sink. We just need enough faith to stretch out our hand to Jesus as we sink and cry out, “Lord save me” (Matthew 14:30).

Even that is enough for Jesus to hold us up out of the waves.

Let’s be honest today.  It’s not always easy to sing, “‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus.”  Sometimes it’s downright difficult.  It’s murky and hazed over and difficult to see.  Sometimes it’s desperately painful.

But we don’t have to have all the answers.  In fact, we don’t really need to say much of anything at all.  Certainly, we don’t have to pretend that it’s easy or shrug mourning off our shoulders with little more than, “it’s all for the best.”

Instead, we can ask for God to make our hearts tender, soft and pliable in His hands because of the pain we’ve endured.  And we can reach out one desperate hand and cry out, “Lord, save me.” Sometimes, that’s all we can honestly say and that’s enough.

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.

God, Are You Crying?

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

(Isaiah 63:9).

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

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

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

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

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

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

C-section it was.

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

That was the last time I talked to her.

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

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

She passed away this weekend.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It couldn’t have been his own grief.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Do I Look Dead To You?

After we’ve packed the cooler, dressed everyone in bathing suits and sandals, double-checked the bag for diapers, towels, tissues, Band-Aids (for blisters), sunscreen, and more, and then loaded every last item and person into the mini-van, we have the same-old chat with our girls as we drive to Busch Gardens, the amusement park near our home.

First we begin with the safety reminders, about strangers, about wandering away from us, and what to do if you get lost.

Then we remind them that we aren’t buying every snack, toy, or novelty item strategically scattered along our path through the park.  And no whining when it’s time to go home.

We finish up with the “friends speech.”   It goes something like this:  You are sisters.  God designed you to be best friends.  Don’t ditch your sister so that you can ride in a boat or car or dragon or whatever with some random stranger who you’ll never see again.  Sisters ride together.

This last speech generally elicits the most protests.  My girls are friendly people.  They like to meet new kids and form what they are certain are life-long bonds of friendship while standing in line at Busch Gardens.

So, it was no surprise that during our spring break trek out to the amusement park, my middle daughter stood in line for a ride and then announced, “Mom, I made two new best friends!”

Not just friends.  Best friends.

And how did she know these two new girls were now her bosom buddies for life?

“They told me their names, Savannah and Julia.”

That was it.  The loyal bond formed simply by exchanging names.

Friends, best friends, nice people you’ve only just met, a stranger whose name you’ve learned, sisters, the person you thought was your close friend but who gossips about you behind your back  . . . it’s a mesh of relationships they haven’t quite figured out yet.

Identifying true friends is a skill only learned over time after experiencing both hurt feelings and faithfulness, betrayal and loyal love.

A mentor once told me that women were designed for deep friendship. Every one of us needs a Ruth and Naomi relationship, not just casual acquaintances whose names we know after a few minutes of standing in lines of life together.

Unfortunately, life is busy, complicated, hectic, and hard, and investing time in those loyal friendships seems an impossible task.

Yet, Scripture tells us this is one investment that’s worth making.

We need a friend who loves sacrificially, and for whom we likewise will sacrifice.  Jesus commanded us to “love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends”  (John 15:12).

We need a friend who remains faithful even when we’re at our ugliest, worn-outest, saddest, and yuckiest, just as it says in Proverbs 17:17 “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

And we need something else.

We need a friend who is not afraid to get dirty with us as we live this resurrection life.

Jesus stood at the entry to the tomb of his close friend, Lazarus.  He heard the weeping of others around him.  His own tears trailed down his cheek.  The crowd scolded him for not coming earlier and healing his friend while there was still time.  The pragmatic folks complained about the stink of death and decay wafting out of a reopened tomb.  Mary and Martha shot hopeless, hurt-filled glances in Jesus’ direction.

Undeterred, Jesus demanded, “Lazarus, come out!”  (John 11:44).  The shocked crowd watched as the dead man emerged from the grave, living, breathing, and walking—alive.

But he moved slowly, maybe a little like a mummy in a sci-fi horror flick that plays on Saturday afternoon television.  He didn’t leap out from the tomb and dance before the Lord with all the joy of a resurrected fellow.

Instead, “the dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.  Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go” (John 11:44 NIV).

Chris Tiegreen reminds us in One Year At His Feet “When Jesus raises us out of our sinful state of death, there is something left to do before we run free.  The grave clothes must go”  (p. 21).

That’s something Lazarus couldn’t do on his own.  Jesus instructed others to come alongside him and unwrap the linen bindings, the remnants of death and the grave that still had him hindered, trapped, and blinded.

That’s the church’s job.  That’s the job of a loyal friend, who patiently strips away all the habitual sins, guilt, shame, false beliefs, hang-ups, terrors from the past, and hurts that trip us up and slow us down.

Sometimes we simply require a love that doesn’t give up on us.

Sometimes it takes someone holding us accountable with truth and lovingly showering us with grace when we struggle with the ugliness of sin.  Proverbs 27:6 tells us: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (ESV).  Only a true friend skips the flattery and digs past the superficial chicanery of niceness in order to challenge us with a truth and encourage us to change.

Only a friend tells us when they see some of the grave clothes stubbornly stuck to our skin and then lovingly and patiently unbinds us so we can live in the freedom of new life.

We need a friend like that.  We need to be a friend like that, who brings grace and freedom to another.

You can read more devotionals on this topic here:

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

A Matter of Life and Death

Life or Death
Originally Posted on 04/22/2011

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here, He has risen”
Luke 24:5

A few months ago, my husband came home, arms full of roses—deep red, fragrance so rich.  They were the most beautiful flowers I’d ever been given.

This bouquet from my husband greeted me throughout the day for two weeks, perfect in their vase.  I’d stop my chores and my rushing to literally stop and smell the roses.  But, of course then came wilting and fading and falling petals.  As a girl, I had collected up rose petals over time and filled a glass cup with them, like homemade potpourri with scents of summer and memories dear.  So, I once again gathered up the petals to keep them as a reminder of my gift.

Last week, I peeked into my jar of keepsake roses to enjoy them just for a moment and instead of dried and faded flowers still filled with aroma, I found instead mold grown over.  Into the trash they went.

Sometimes there are things we hold onto so dearly that are truly dead.  We try and try to revive and preserve; we linger over things past.  Have you held onto the habits and comforts of the past when Christ has called you to lay them down and move on?  He has asked you to sacrifice and instead you clutch it to your chest, not willing to give it up.  So, you cling to the old and fail to receive the new “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! ” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV).

At the tomb on the morning of Christ’s resurrection, women brought spices for anointing.  Instead of the expected, they faced the unexpected—the stone rolled away, the body gone, two angels in clothes gleaming like lightning, asking a question: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here, He has risen” (Luke 24:5)

Why do you look for the living among the dead?

Surely there are times we do this, too.  We look for our Living Savior among the graves.  Sometimes our faith is more cemetery than empty tomb.

Chris Tiegreen wrote:

We read the Bible as a historical document rather than as a living Word. We follow Jesus as our example rather than listening to Him as our living Lord.  We take our cues from our denominational traditions rather than from the Spirit of life.  In other words, we turn our faith toward dead things rather than toward the Living One.

Has this been you?  Has faith been dulled and the joy of your salvation replaced by compulsory duty and passionless motions—doing Christianity rather than living with Christ?

Or, are you instead staring at a tomb of a different sort, but still there is death?  A relationship broken.  A marriage over.  A child turned prodigal.  A ministry struggling.  A passion now cold.  A vision gone dark.  A hope proved impossible.  A lack of direction and not knowing where to go.  A season of waiting, waiting, waiting, always waiting.

There is some mourning to be done, some grieving over what is lost and dead in our lives.  Some letting go and laying down.  And there may be tears; that’s expected.   Yet, “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

With morning, comes resurrection and abundant new life, and we rejoice for He is “making everything new” (Revelation 21:5, NIV).  This Savior whose sacrifice we remember on Good Friday by eating the bread, drinking the cup—this Savior declared victory over death and the grave.  Power over His tomb.  Power over the places we mourn and grieve.

“Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57, NIV).

and

“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:14, NIV).

What would this rising look like for us?  What can He resurrect in us this year?  Over what can He give us victory?

I pray this new life for you. 

That His Word will be living and active, changing your heart, altering your perspective.
For renewed passion, vision, excitement, and ministry impact.
For restoration of relationships.
For the return of hope.
For weeping to end and joy to fill you.
For your eyes to be opened wide to God’s presence, His character, His goodness.
~Amen~

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Weekend Walk, 04/07/2012

Hiding the Word:

Last night, our family sat at the Good Friday service at church.  We sang hymns about the cross. We read Isaiah 52-53.  My girls nailed papers with their sins written on them to a wooden cross in the front of the church sanctuary with the help of their Daddy and their grandparents.

We remembered the cross and the sacrifice Jesus made there.

Afterward, when we had arrived home, stripped off our jackets and plopped down our belongings, we glanced at our five caterpillars in a cup.  In our short absence, two of them had climbed to the top and tipped themselves upside down.

It’s time.  They know exactly when to spin the silk and form the chrysalis, just as they will know when to emerge as butterflies.

We are waiting with expectation now.  We know the end of their story and it doesn’t stop with upside down caterpillars or bugs entombed in the cocoon of their own design.  New life is the beginning that starts with the end.

In the same way, knowing as we do that Jesus didn’t stay in the tomb, we celebrate Good Friday with hopeful expectation–because Sunday is coming.  His resurrection day is near.

Jesus’ close friends and family, however, hadn’t understood His messages to them.  They didn’t fully expect His death.  They didn’t look forward with hopeful anticipation for His resurrection.  They got it all wrong.

Don’t we get it all wrong so much of the time?  Don’t we expect God to act a certain way, and when He doesn’t, we lose hope?  We grow weary and depressed, perhaps even angry.

We look at circumstances and we pronounce death over them.  We think surely this is over.  Surely nothing can be done.

Jesus defied all of our plans and expectations through His death and resurrection, providing the perfect way of salvation for the entirety of mankind.  He continues to do that today.  When He declares that the time is at hand, He can speak life into every circumstance and situation, and His plan is perfect.

Our verse for the week:

“O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ
(1 Corinthians 15:55-56).

You can listen to Matt Maher’s song, Christ is Risen, by clicking on this link or viewing the video from the blog:  http://youtu.be/IExdrZGQVeI

Weekend Rerun:

Surprise!
Originally posted July 27, 2011

All day long people were singing at her.  Smiling and singing.  They tickled her belly, kissed her cheek, hugged her, and said two magic words that she didn’t even understand, “Happy Birthday!”

At first, my now-two-year-old reacted to all this attention with nothing more than a puzzled expression.  By the afternoon of her second birthday, she smiled a sweetly confused grin when we scooped her up for birthday hugs and kisses.  After dinner, she enjoyed the visit from her grandparents, but it wasn’t until I brought out the birthday cupcakes and we sang to her that she really began to understand that this special day was about her.

As soon as I lit the candle, she knew what to do.  She started blowing at the air while I still stood across the room with her birthday cupcake in my hands.  And then after she was covered in icing and Mickey Mouse-shaped sprinkles, I brought out wrapped presents and gift bags.

Her face said it all.  “For me?”  She unwrapped each gift and immediately played with it, read the book, put the puzzle pieces in place, and fed the baby doll.

My little one had been surprised by joy.

How I love that age when the simple fact of a birthday is enough to bring laughter and excitement.  My older daughters now anticipate their big days all year long.  Within a week of turning six, my eldest began telling people she was, “Almost seven.”  I’ve heard all their big plans for birthday parties (despite being told that we’re skipping this year), and yet they plan anyway.

But for my baby girl, there was no anticipation.  She had no idea we were planning for her joy.  She was oblivious to me stashing presents in the closet.  She had no clue I wrapped them during her nap the day before the big day.  She did know that I made cupcakes (she has a sixth sense for finding cupcakes), but she didn’t see me decorate them or pop two candles onto the top of the one just for her.

During those final days before her birthday, her sisters and I were the excited ones.  We looked forward to showering her with special treats and signs of love, even more because we knew she wouldn’t be expecting it.

Matthew 7:11 says, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

When we’re feeling broken, just emptied out or filled with fear . . . when we look ahead to an uncertain future, not even knowing what tomorrow will look like for us . . . when we’ve been attacked into the ground, pounded on by trials and Satan and circumstances and one bad event after another . . .

. . . then we remember that God is at work in invisible ways, even when we cannot see His hand, His activity, or His plans.  He gives us the good gifts of salvation, His Holy Spirit, His peace, yes.  But even more, He pours out on us surprises of joy, presents of grace in the unexpected places, an oasis in the midst of our wilderness, and a shooting star of hope across a midnight black expanse of our future.

Angela Thomas in her book Do You Know Who I Am? wrote:

“there is always a hidden work of God.  When you think that God is distant or that maybe God has turned against you, I want you to remember that in the unseen God is plotting for your joy.  He is planning the redemption of your brokenness.”  Angela Thomas

Does it tickle you to think of God in heaven wrapping presents for you, sending down cupcakes with sprinkles just for you–when you least expect it and on a day that seems so ordinary or worse, filled with despair?

That’s what He did for Mary Magdalene, sitting at the tomb of her dead Savior, weeping for the loss of Him and the seeming loss of all He had promised.  In her sorrow, she had traveled to the tomb while it was still dark.  Perhaps she couldn’t sleep, so throwing back her blankets she had simply gotten up and started walking to the place of His burial.

But the stone was gone.  The tomb empty.  She called for the disciples and they searched through scraps of linen for any answer to the mystery of the missing Savior.

There was despair and confusion and hurt.  There was anger and defensiveness about grave robbers and defilers. It was a day that had started out bad enough and was quickly getting worse by the second.

Mary didn’t see Jesus “plotting for her joy.”  He had been at work in the hidden places, descending into hell and snatching the keys of death out of Satan’s hands.  He had risen on that third day and exited the tomb already, but she hadn’t seen any of that.

While God planned her surprise, she: “stood outside the tomb crying” (John 20:11).

It’s not until she sees Jesus herself—not even then, not even when she talks with Him, but only when He calls her by name—that she realizes the victory before her, the amazing miracle of resurrection.

The angels asked her why she was crying.  Jesus Himself asked the reason for her tears.  She cried because the brokenness was all she knew and the evidence of loss and grief was overbearingly present.  An empty tomb, grave clothes in a pile, Savior’s body gone.  That’s what she saw.

Isn’t that what we sometimes see, too?  We see here and now.  Bills due.  Relationships broken.  Uncertainty about the next day and the next.  Unanswered questions.  Danger for our kids.  Loss and mourning.  Difficult ministry.

We see the grave.

God sees the resurrection.

He’s your Father who loves you, who knows how to give you good gifts and is wrapping presents for you, rejoicing “over you with singing” (Zeph. 3:17), and working “for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”” (Rom. 8:28).

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

Take Two: Kaleidoscope Moment: An Eternal Perspective

 

Friends, tomorrow is the seventh anniversary of my dad’s death, so today I’m going to share with you my post about his passing from last year’s anniversary. I hope it’s a blessing to you!

Kaleidoscope Moment 2: An Eternal Perspective

Posted on March 29, 2011

 

On this day six years ago, my dad died of malignant melanoma.  I miss him, but I’m okay.

Mostly I miss him in unexpected moments throughout the year.  Like when I hear Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition (his favorite) or some jazz music.  Or when I visit the firehouse with my daughter on a field trip (he was a firefighter).  When I see a really good drummer (my dad was the best) or watch the military band concerts on evenings in the summer (he was an Army musician).

I miss him when we look through pictures and my daughters ask me all about him.  I’m sad because the last year of his life, he was so sick and really didn’t look the way I remember him best.  Those pictures are strange distortions of someone I knew and loved.

I miss him, but I’m okay.

His death was one of those kaleidoscope moments for me.  God took my perspective with the patterns I was used to seeing, and shifted it a little.  He showed me something beautiful.

Up until that moment, I had believed in heaven.  I heard the stories in Sunday School and saw the pictures in my Beginner’s Bible as a kid.  We sang songs at church about heaven and I believed what I sang.

But, when my dad died, heaven was suddenly real.  Not some hazy and nebulous concept we teach at church, but a real place where my dad now lived.  The outer shell that we buried in that casket was most definitely not him anymore.  Suddenly, when I envisioned what heaven would be like, I personally knew someone who was there–a face in the crowd that was waiting expectantly for me to join him.

My mom chose this verse for my dad’s funeral bulletin:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, NIV).

For the first time, God taught me how to have an eternal perspective.

I had a friend in college whose mother had a degenerative disease and was ever so slowly worsening.  It was difficult and devastating, but I have never in my life met anyone whose eyes were more firmly fixed on heaven than my friend.  She saw heaven as the soon-to-be home for her mom—a place where her mom would be healed and whole and hurting no longer.  She would talk about heaven in casual conversation and she didn’t care about earthly possessions, worldly success, or what other people thought of her.  Instead, her eyes were fixed on the unseen and the eternal.

I forget sometimes to keep an eternal perspective and then God nudges my heart and holds the kaleidoscope back up for me to see the pattern of beauty He created in the light of eternal hope.

I get angry about something stupid and forget that little petty annoyances mean nothing in the end.  I worry and fret about the small details of my life and forget that in the grand scheme of things, they really don’t matter. I long for a bigger home or at least new carpeting and forget that this world really isn’t my home and what I have here isn’t going to last.

Chris Tiegreen wrote:

When your feet are planted in heaven, you can quit chasing status in this world.  You can live with a godly sense of abandon because you aren’t attached to possessions or even your own life.  You can take risks, although nothing God calls us to do is really risky by eternal definitions.  You can follow Him without fear.

The other day I took my daughters to a festival we have in our town.  We toured the booths, saw some skits, watched the parade and then headed home.  When she got to the car and realized we weren’t paying $5 per child for a 2-minute pony ride, my daughter bawled.  She cried most of the way home, saying, “You don’t understand me or what I like and what is important to me.  You never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give me the things I want.  I’m not going to eat or clean my room or do anything at all until you take me back to ride the horses.”

We arrived home and she sat in time-out.  I checked my emails and other messages and found an updated post for the little girl named Kate McRae that I’ve been praying for.  She’s seven years old.  She has metastatic brain cancer.

My daughter climbed into my lap, face still a little red from tears, and asked me about the little girl whose picture was now on my computer screen.  I told her all about Kate.  How she’ll be losing her hair because of the treatments she has to have.  How she has to take medicine that makes her terribly sick so she can’t eat.  How she can’t be with her brother and sister and can’t go to school.  How she has to live far from home and stay in a hospital.  How her body is weakened by the radiation treatments to her brain.

Pony rides didn’t seem so important anymore.  God turned the kaleidoscope and changed my daughter’s heart by revealing a new perspective, an eternal one.

Paul wrote:

Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body (Philippians 3:17-21, NIV).

How would your life change if you lived as a citizen of heaven in the here and now of earth?

Would you be more bold in your faith?  Invest more time in worship and prayer?  Build into your relationships more?  Whine less about the things you have or don’t have?  Abandon the pursuit of earthly status in order to gain heavenly reward?  Spend less time worrying about the things you can’t control?  Love people more and be willing to overlook more of their faults?  Be more thankful?  Enjoy the little blessings in life?

So much of my attitude about life, so many of my everyday reactions are tainted because I lose that eternal perspective.  That’s why I need reminders like today.  Reminders that “this world is not my home; I’m just passing through.  My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.”

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

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

Life or Death

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here, He has risen”
Luke 24:5

A few months ago, my husband came home, arms full of roses—deep red, fragrance so rich.  They were the most beautiful flowers I’d ever been given.

This bouquet from my husband greeted me throughout the day for two weeks, perfect in their vase.  I’d stop my chores and my rushing to literally stop and smell the roses.  But, of course then came wilting and fading and falling petals.  As a girl, I had collected up rose petals over time and filled a glass cup with them, like homemade potpourri with scents of summer and memories dear.  So, I once again gathered up the petals to keep them as a reminder of my gift.

Last week, I peeked into my jar of keepsake roses to enjoy them just for a moment and instead of dried and faded flowers still filled with aroma, I found instead mold grown over.  Into the trash they went.

Sometimes there are things we hold onto so dearly that are truly dead.  We try and try to revive and preserve; we linger over things past.  Have you held onto the habits and comforts of the past when Christ has called you to lay them down and move on?  He has asked you to sacrifice and instead you clutch it to your chest, not willing to give it up.  So, you cling to the old and fail to receive the new “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! ” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV).

At the tomb on the morning of Christ’s resurrection, women brought spices for anointing.  Instead of the expected, they faced the unexpected—the stone rolled away, the body gone, two angels in clothes gleaming like lightning, asking a question: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here, He has risen” (Luke 24:5)

Why do you look for the living among the dead?

Surely there are times we do this, too.  We look for our Living Savior among the graves.  Sometimes our faith is more cemetery than empty tomb.

Chris Tiegreen wrote:

We read the Bible as a historical document rather than as a living Word. We follow Jesus as our example rather than listening to Him as our living Lord.  We take our cues from our denominational traditions rather than from the Spirit of life.  In other words, we turn our faith toward dead things rather than toward the Living One.

Has this been you?  Has faith been dulled and the joy of your salvation replaced by compulsory duty and passionless motions—doing Christianity rather than living with Christ?

Or, are you instead staring at a tomb of a different sort, but still there is death?  A relationship broken.  A marriage over.  A child turned prodigal.  A ministry struggling.  A passion now cold.  A vision gone dark.  A hope proved impossible.  A lack of direction and not knowing where to go.  A season of waiting, waiting, waiting, always waiting.

There is some mourning to be done, some grieving over what is lost and dead in our lives.  Some letting go and laying down.  And there may be tears; that’s expected.   Yet, “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

With morning, comes resurrection and abundant new life, and we rejoice for He is “making everything new” (Revelation 21:5, NIV).  This Savior whose sacrifice we remember on Good Friday by eating the bread, drinking the cup—this Savior declared victory over death and the grave.  Power over His tomb.  Power over the places we mourn and grieve.

“Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57, NIV).

and

“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:14, NIV).

What would this rising look like for us?  What can He resurrect in us this year?  Over what can He give us victory?

I pray this new life for you. 

That His Word will be living and active, changing your heart, altering your perspective.
For renewed passion, vision, excitement, and ministry impact.
For restoration of relationships.
For the return of hope.
For weeping to end and joy to fill you.
For your eyes to be opened wide to God’s presence, His character, His goodness.
~Amen~

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

Now it’s your turn:

Is there something you are praying that God will resurrect in your life this year?  Is there something dead that needs to be laid down?  How can I pray for you?

What verse or thought has been on your mind as you prepare for Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday?

Please post a comment to share!!

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

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

Kaleidoscope Moment 2: An Eternal Perspective

On this day six years ago, my dad died of malignant melanoma.  I miss him, but I’m okay.

Mostly I miss him in unexpected moments throughout the year.  Like when I hear Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition (his favorite) or some jazz music.  Or when I visit the firehouse with my daughter on a field trip (he was a firefighter).  When I see a really good drummer (my dad was the best) or watch the military band concerts on evenings in the summer (he was an Army musician).

I miss him when we look through pictures and my daughters ask me all about him.  I’m sad because the last year of his life, he was so sick and really didn’t look the way I remember him best.  Those pictures are strange distortions of someone I knew and loved.

I miss him, but I’m okay.

His death was one of those kaleidoscope moments for me.  God took my perspective with the patterns I was used to seeing, and shifted it a little.  He showed me something beautiful.

Up until that moment, I had believed in heaven.  I heard the stories in Sunday School and saw the pictures in my Beginner’s Bible as a kid.  We sang songs at church about heaven and I believed what I sang.

But, when my dad died, heaven was suddenly real.  Not some hazy and nebulous concept we teach at church, but a real place where my dad now lived.  The outer shell that we buried in that casket was most definitely not him anymore.  Suddenly, when I envisioned what heaven would be like, I personally knew someone who was there–a face in the crowd that was waiting expectantly for me to join him.

My mom chose this verse for my dad’s funeral bulletin:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, NIV).

For the first time, God taught me how to have an eternal perspective.  I had a friend in college whose mother had a degenerative disease and was ever so slowly worsening.  It was difficult and devastating, but I have never in my life met anyone whose eyes were more firmly fixed on heaven than my friend.  She saw heaven as the soon-to-be home for her mom—a place where her mom would be healed and whole and hurting no longer.  She would talk about heaven in casual conversation and she didn’t care about earthly possessions, worldly success, or what other people thought of her.  Instead, her eyes were fixed on the unseen and the eternal.

I forget sometimes to keep an eternal perspective and then God nudges my heart and holds the kaleidoscope back up for me to see the pattern of beauty He created in the light of eternal hope.

I get angry about something stupid and forget that little petty annoyances mean nothing in the end.  I worry and fret about the small details of my life and forget that in the grand scheme of things, they really don’t matter. I long for a bigger home or at least new carpeting and forget that this world really isn’t my home and what I have here isn’t going to last.

Chris Tiegreen wrote:

When your feet are planted in heaven, you can quit chasing status in this world.  You can live with a godly sense of abandon because you aren’t attached to possessions or even your own life.  You can take risks, although nothing God calls us to do is really risky by eternal definitions.  You can follow Him without fear.

The other day I took my daughters to a festival we have in our town.  We toured the booths, saw some skits, watched the parade and then headed home.  When she got to the car and realized we weren’t paying $5 per child for a 2-minute pony ride, my daughter bawled.  She cried most of the way home, saying, “You don’t understand me or what I like and what is important to me.  You never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give me the things I want.  I’m not going to eat or clean my room or do anything at all until you take me back to ride the horses.”

We arrived home and she sat in time-out.  I checked my emails and other messages and found an updated post for the little girl named Kate McRae that I’ve been praying for.  She’s seven years old.  She has metastatic brain cancer.

My daughter climbed into my lap, face still a little red from tears, and asked me about the little girl whose picture was now on my computer screen.  I told her all about Kate.  How she’ll be losing her hair because of the treatments she has to have.  How she has to take medicine that makes her terribly sick so she can’t eat.  How she can’t be with her brother and sister and can’t go to school.  How she has to live far from home and stay in a hospital.  How her body is weakened by the radiation treatments to her brain.

Pony rides didn’t seem so important anymore.  God turned the kaleidoscope and changed my daughter’s heart by revealing a new perspective, an eternal one.

Paul wrote:

Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body (Philippians 3:17-21, NIV).

How would your life change if you lived as a citizen of heaven in the here and now of earth?

Would you be more bold in your faith?  Invest more time in worship and prayer?  Build into your relationships more?  Whine less about the things you have or don’t have?  Abandon the pursuit of earthly status in order to gain heavenly reward?  Spend less time worrying about the things you can’t control?  Love people more and be willing to overlook more of their faults?  Be more thankful?  Enjoy the little blessings in life?

So much of my attitude about life, so many of my everyday reactions are tainted because I lose that eternal perspective.  That’s why I need reminders like today.  Reminders that “this world is not my home; I’m just passing through.  My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.”

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

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

A Blameless Heart

“I will walk in my house with a blameless heart”
Psalm 101:2

Yesterday, I went to a funeral home where family and friends gathered around a casket that should just be too small to exist.  A slide show displayed pictures of the sweetest little baby girl, enjoying her first birthday, meeting Chuck E. Cheese, looking no bigger than my youngest daughter—and a few feet away was this baby girl’s casket.

A moment like that is a terrible shock for someone like me.  I’m a to-do list maker, a go-getter, a get-things-done kind of person.  There are days when it probably seems to my daughters that since Candy Land isn’t on Mommy’s very official to-do list, we can’t play.

Yet, last night I saw an unmistakable reminder that people are ever so much more important than any deadline or production goal.

It’s very easy for me to let external priorities take precedence over my relationships with people.  Over the years, I’ve had to slowly learn not to begin conversations by going directly to “business.”  God has taught my heart how to truly mean it when I ask someone, “How are you doing?” and to linger there in the relationship time before moving ahead to any items on my agenda.

From God’s perspective, people are always top priority.  His entire goal from the creation of the world was to build relationship with us.  When Adam and Eve’s sin caused a breach in that precious communion with God, He immediately began planning a way to reunite us, ultimately sacrificing His Son all because of His great, enduring and passionate love for us.  Relationship with us was always part of His plan.

If God loves people that much, then we should reflect His heart by loving people also.   In his book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson writes:

People are at the center of the Christian work. In the way of pilgrimage we do not drive cumbersome Conestoga wagons loaded down with baggage over endless prairies.  We travel light.  The character of our work is shaped not by accomplishments or possessions but in the birth of relationships.

When the Psalmist writes in Psalm 127:3, “Children are God’s best gift,” it reminds my mommy heart to value God’s greatest gifts to me by prioritizing time with my children over my work.

But this verse isn’t just for parents.  It shows that God’s focus is always on relationships over tasks, people over productivity.  Eugene Peterson wrote, “We invest our energy in people.  Among those around us we develop sons and daughters, sisters and brothers even as our Lord did with us.”

In our efforts to love people, though, sometimes we fall into the trap of “ministering” to people and “serving” in the church, but never really loving anybody!  Even ministry—the programmed and scheduled kind of ministry—can get in the way of actually ministering to people.  Are we too busy attending meetings to take dinner to a sick friend?  Are we on so many committees we no longer have time to meet another woman for lunch and encourage her?

And then there are the times when loving and serving people means “other people” and not those in our own homes.   We’re “showing God’s love” to the neighbor, to the single mom at church, to the child in our Sunday School class.   Yet, sometimes the people we love the very most can get the worst part of us.  We can be gentle with anyone but our kids.  We can be encouraging to everyone except our husbands.

In one of my most favorite books, Bleak House, Charles Dickens described Mrs. Jellyby as: “a lady of very remarkable strength of character who devotes herself entirely to the public. She has devoted herself to an extensive variety of public subjects, at various times, and is at present (until something else attracts her) devoted to the subject of Africa”.

Just like me, Mrs. Jellyby was a get-things-done kind of woman, but her eyes were so fixed on saving orphans in Africa, that her own children were starving, dirty, uneducated, in rags, and totally unloved.

Mrs. Jellyby is an extreme, but it’s not difficult to see how we can get our priorities scrambled at times.  I had a friend who had some special recipes that her family loved,.  More importantly, though, the people at her church loved them.  So, she would fix them for church potlucks.  After all, everyone wants to have the empty dish at the end of the covered dish meal!  But when her kids would come home and smell the delicious cookies baking, she’d say, “Those are for church!”  Then, one day she was reminded that she should cook the special dishes and treats for her precious children also—not just for the people outside her home.

I love what Paul wrote in Colossians 3:23-24: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.  It is Christ whom you serve.”

In the past, I’ve taken that verse to mean that I should work hard at my job, give my best effort in ministry, and just generally DO stuff for God.  Yet, I have no greater work or ministry than serving and loving my husband and my children.  After that, my top priority should be relationships with the other people God places in my life.

That means: Being patient with my daughter as she learns to tie her shoelaces.  Taking a break from work to play Candy Land.  Fixing my daughter the pasta salad that I normally reserve for church potlucks.  Writing a note to my husband, not just the ladies in my Bible Study.

I do all of these things “as for the Lord rather than for men” because “it is Christ whom I serve.”   We will get no earthly recognition, plaque, award, or productivity bonus from loving people.  In fact, if we love as we’re supposed to–humbly, quietly, and sacrificially–no one may ever even know it’s happening.  Nevertheless, God always sees our actions and heart when we, like Him, make people our priority and  He will give us “the reward of the inheritance.”

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

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