We are not forgotten

psalm 20-6

For the record, I’ve never forgotten one of my kids at a store or anything.

But there was the time I left a child in the minivan.

When my youngest daughter was about four, she used to run into the house as soon as we got home and then hide behind the curtains.

She always hid in the same place.

She always thought she was both hilarious and amazingly creative for hiding in that same exact place.

And then when we’d all load out of the minivan and step into the kitchen, she’d jump out and ‘surprise’ us.

Only that night, I shut the minivan door and trudged into the house with my arms loaded down with stuff, stuff and more stuff after an evening at church.

A few minutes later, my husband asks, “Where’s Catherine?”

Well, isn’t she hiding behind the curtains like she always is?  Why hasn’t she jumped out to surprise us yet?

Actually, no, she was still in the minivan.

She never climbed out and never made any noise about it, so we’d left her locked inside alone and in the dark.

Not one of my prize Mom moments, I’ll admit.

My husband carried our baby girl in and she cried for a bit over feeling lost and forgotten and even a little afraid.  She wasn’t traumatized, though, (God’s grace right there!) and I’m not even sure if she remembers it ever happened.

I do, of course.

We’re slow to forget mistakes and easily traumatized by our own failures.

But I can still see her now, arms wrapped around Daddy’s neck, face buried in his shoulder, leaning into him in gratitude and relief because he had remembered her and he had come for her in the dark and carried her out of loneliness into a place of safety.

He saved her.

This week I read in my Bible:

But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided (Genesis 8:1 ESV).

God remembered Noah.

All those nights shut up in the smelly ark, rocked about by the ever-present water, Noah may have felt forgotten, abandoned, trapped, and left to rot away from mildew and a bad case of cabin fever.

And maybe we know what that’s like.

Maybe we’ve felt like God didn’t hear us, wasn’t aware of what we’re going through, wasn’t paying attention, and had simply forgotten us right in the moment of our greatest need.

The Israelites probably felt that same way, sweating and groaning their way through hundreds of years in Egyptian slavery.

It’s clear that they weren’t silent sufferers, either.  Instead, “the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help” (Exodus 2:23).

And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.   (Exodus 2:24-25, ESV).

God remembered them, too.

I love how the Message breaks this down:

God listened to their groanings.
God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.
God saw what was going on with Israel.
God understood (Exodus 2:24-25, MSG).

God listened.  God remembered.  God saw.  God understood.

There’s something else, though.  Something true for Noah.  Something true for Israel.  Something true for us even now.

When Scripture tells us God remembers, it doesn’t mean He ever truly forgot us.  It’s not like He had a case of temporary amnesia or couldn’t recall our name or lost track of our plight.

Or left us behind in the minivan.

When God remembers, it’s a sign in Scripture that this is the moment He’ll reveal His activity.  It’s the moment when everything God had been doing in the hidden places is clear and revealed and brought to the light.

No more waiting.

Now it’s time for God to be on the move.

He orders the waters on the earth to recede so Noah and his family could step out of that ark onto dry ground.

He calls Moses from a burning bush and tells him to go lead Israel out of Egypt.

So, we can hold fast to this same truth as we groan in our own need, whether it be the annoyance of a daily stress, the repentance over a habitual sin, or the hardest of life’s challenges.

God hears us.  God remembers His promises to us.  God sees us.  God understands.

And then He rescues.

Now I know that the Lord saves His anointed; He will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of His right hand” (Psalm 20:6, ESV).

 

 

Dealing With Gnats and Other Problems

She stood at the top of the slide pointing them out to me and I stood at the bottom of the slide smashing the gnats.010

When it’s over 70 degrees outside in the middle of winter, you play hookie from chores and pop your preschooler into the minivan for an afternoon at the park.  We had rushed up the hill to the playground and she tried the swings and the sandbox and the seesaw (which exhausts this mommy who has to do all the see-sawing with my own muscles).

When she climbed to the top of the slide, though, she complained about all the bees…or were they ants?

“Gnats,” I tell her.  Fifty of them at least dotted all along the yellow slide.  The closer you looked, the more you saw.

“They’ll bite me,” she whined.

I reassured her.  Gnats are a pesky, annoying nuisance, but hardly a health hazard or a reason to fear the slide.  But she stood there paralyzed, so I wiped them away.

When she climbed up again for another slide down, though, they were back.  Or, to be more accurate, fifty other gnats had landed.

We repeated it relentlessly.  I smooshed bugs.  She slid down.  She climbed back up.  I smooshed more bugs.

In between, I swatted the pests away from my face.

Like most kids, I spent a week during several summers away at camp and the line for the dining hall there at this camp along the Potomac River stretched outside.  We lined up morning, noon and night for our meals, knowing one thing for sure:

The gnats would drive us crazy.

They swarmed in tiny black clouds around us.  Some of the other girls started walking around with one hand raised up on top of their heads, looking like a rooster with feathers all fanned out.

“Gnats always go to the highest part of your body,” they explained, all-knowing as sixth grade girls always are.

I never was sure if walking around with a hand on top of my head really kept the gnats from swarming around my face.

Perhaps it really was as ineffective as squashing the gnats on the playground slide over and over again only to watch more land within seconds.

But when you’re bothered or stressed, anxious, annoyed, pestered, worried and troubled, solutions are what you seek–no matter how ridiculous or sane.

Unfortunately, sometimes God is the last solution we seek to the messes we find ourselves in.

Certainly for Pharaoh, the pattern of the plagues was clear (at least to us) and yet he was desperate to find a solution outside of God.

Over and over, Moses asked for the deliverance of God’s people.
Pharaoh refused.
A plague of boils, blood, frogs, gnats or worse descended on the Egyptians.
Pharaoh asked Moses to pray.
The plague ceased.

So, when “gnats infested the entire land, covering the Egyptians and their animals.  All the dust in the land of Egypt turned into gnats,” the solution to us seems obvious (Exodus 8:17).

Pray Pharaoh.  Pray hard.  Step down off that mighty Egyptian throne, throw yourself on God’s mercy, so abundant, so longsuffering.  Bow that head and bend that knee in humility to God and God alone and obey His Word.

But that turning aside from self, that relinquishing of personal programs and plans and the solutions you’ve charted out so carefully takes humility.  It means confessing the hard-to-swallow truth.

I can’t do this on my own.

God, please help me.

Even Pharaoh’s magicians exclaimed, “This is the finger of God!”  But he resisted.  That proud earthly king would rather breathe in gnats and swallow gnats and swat gnats away from his face and sleep with gnats rather than rely on the mercy of a Merciful but Mighty God.

Oh, the humbling.  For Egyptians who prided themselves on hygiene and personal cleanliness, the perpetual buzz of pests must have been the ultimate pride destruction.

Still Pharaoh resisted.

Still we resist at times, too. We’re puzzling out our problem and feeling the shame of broken relationships, broken marriages, broken finances, broken lives, broken ministries, broken hearts, brokenness.

And what God wants is for us to just ask Him, to turn to Him first, to confess that we’ve messed up and to do things His way this time.

To pray and pray hard.  To bow that head and bend that knee.  To lay it all out at His nail-scarred feet and say what’s true:

I can’t do this on my own.

God, please help me.

Oh yes, we pray: “Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us, just as we hope in You” (Psalm 33:22 NKJV).

Kyrie eleison.  “Lord, have mercy.”

Amen and amen.

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 © 2013 Heather King

Weekend Walk, 03/10/2012

Hiding the Word:

We’ve returned home after a long and exciting family day at our area Awana games.  Our two oldest girls competed in Sparks-A-Rama for the first time.  We cheered them on from the bleechers as they popped balloons, dodged balls, and ran like lightning-ish around the gym floor.

Our coaches and the kids worked hard for weeks to practice the games, to learn the rules, and to develop discipline, listening skills, teamwork and kindness.

I was so proud of our team. Not only that, but I loved the sweet cheerleading of my youngest daughter as she sat in the stands and picked her sisters out from the crowd.  Whether they were racing or sitting on the line while another team played, Catherine didn’t stop yelling, “Go, Toria! Go Lauren!”

We all need people in the stands cheering us on, whether we’re in the thick of the battle or resting for a few quiet moments.  God has commissioned us all with pom poms and asked us to call out our words of praise, perseverance, and encouragement for others.

So, that’s the verse that’s on my heart for the week.  It’s a challenge to each of us to be the cheerleader that someone else needs.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NIV).

Weekend Rerun:

The Giving of Courage
Originally Published 04/27/2011

 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing,
but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 20:24-25 

My sweet baby girl is my cheerleader.  I finish putting the clothes in the dryer and she claps her hands excitedly for me.  I change her diaper; she shouts yay!  yay!  and applauds with enthusiasm.   I drop the last of her toys into the basket and she does a happy dance and showers me with praise.  When I slide the last puzzle piece into place with her, she cheers and shouts.  If you spent the tiniest bit of time in my home, you’d think I won an Olympic medal every hour all day long because my “crowd goes wild” just that often.  My little crowd of one tiny, joyful cheerleader.

Has someone been a cheerleader for you before? 

You sit tired in the pew at church after the rush of Sunday morning preparation, but you made it and all your children sit next to you with clean clothes on.  Small victories.  Then a comforting hand reaches across your shoulder and a friend tells you, “Great job.  You’re such a great mom.”

You push your cart through the grocery store and try to efficiently and frugally shop all while monitoring the arms and legs of your various kids and periodically reminding them to use “inside voices,” when an unknown woman whispers to you, “Your children are so well-behaved.”

You pour yourself out into the ministry you know God has called you to and yet there are those moments and days when you wonder if it really matters, if it does any good, if anybody is blessed by it, if it’s worth the time and effort you spend on it.  Then, you sort through the bills after collecting your mail and find buried in there a card from a friend, a note of appreciation and thanks, a prayer, a verse.

You’ve been struggling.  Life is hard.  You don’t know what decisions to make.  You’re hurting and overwhelmed.  Then an email arrives and a friend says, “I’m praying for you.”

God uses others to bring us these messages of hope and encouragement at just the right moments in our lives, filling needs we can’t even always identify. It’s one of the reasons He designed us to travel together—He knows our hearts sometimes need this cheerleading from others.  When we stray from the group, when we go off on our own and try to live faith solo, we are easy prey for attack.  The Israelites learned this on their journey out of Egypt: “Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt.  When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God” (Deuteronomy 25:17-18, NIV).

If your heart is weary and in need of some encouragement today, look to your right and your left for your group; be sure that you are connected and not lagging behind.  Perhaps the first step needs to come from you in a search for the Christian community that will walk alongside you and encourage you along the journey to the Promised Land.

But you can also ask God for the refreshing your heart needs.  He knows exactly what will fill your spirit, giving you strength to overcome fatigue, guidance when you need direction, laughter when your heart lacks joy.  As the Israelites journeyed in the wilderness, God led them to an oasis: “They came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms, and they camped there beside the waters” (Exodus 15:27).    Priscilla Shirer writes: “‘Twelve springs of water’ to match the twelve tribes of Israel.  What a great illustration of God’s overwhelming care and specific concern for His people.  He knows exactly what it takes to refresh you.”

He is the shepherd who knows His sheep.  “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,  he refreshes my soul” (Psalm 23:2-3).  Sometimes we sheep feel the hunger and thirst; we know we are empty and in need of filling, but we depend on a Shepherd to guide us to the perfect place for refreshing and provision.

And when He has led us beside the waters so perfect and the green pastures so filling, we have a testimony to share with others, a story to help them along the way as well.  Like the Psalmist, we declare:

“Return to your rest, my soul,
for the LORD has been good to you.
For you, LORD, have delivered me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living” (Psalm 116:7-8).

We who have received encouragement, in turn encourage others through our testimony.  This encouraging truly is the giving of courage, placing it into the heart of another.  Isn’t that what this cheerleading does? It renews our strength so that we persevere and press on.  God asks us to do this for one another, to stand on the sidelines of a race and cheer, shout, and applaud for the runners: Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NIV).

How can you be a cheerleader for someone else today?

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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 © 2012 Heather King

Two steps forward and two steps back (or so it seems)

This was an unfortunate setback.

A few weeks ago, my husband gently suggested that it may be time for a serious attempt at potty training my two-year-old.

Now, to understand how I felt about this I first have to tell you potty training my two older girls was no easy task.  In fact, it’s fair to say that I’ve never felt as much like a failure in my life as when I was pleading with a toddler just to sit on the potty chair.

I laid awake at night designing reward charts and incentive plans.
I prayed for help from Almighty God so that my kids would be ready for preschool.
I bought books, movies, stickers, M&Ms, toys, and more to bribe them into success.
I avoided all moms who proudly announced their genius 18-month old had been perfectly trained with absolutely no effort in all of a day.

But my husband is a good husband and I’m a good wife.  So, when he asked me to start potty training my toddler, I plunged into what I was sure would be months and months of misery, stress and clean-up.

I pulled out the trusty movie, Potty Power.  I explained underwear to my daughter.  Every 15 minutes, I picked her up and carried her to the bathroom.

And a miracle happened.  A real live, genuine miracle of God.

She figured it out.  She wanted to learn.  She graduated to underwear in a matter of days.  I bet God never had anyone thank Him so much for help potty training her child.

And then.

Then there was the setback.  One week of sickness kicked my baby girl back into Pull-Ups and made her absolutely terrified of a trip to the bathroom.  Now my sanity is loosely held together by a can of Resolve and a bottle of Febreze.

I was discouraged.  She was scared and confused.  We’re baby-stepping our way forward, hoping to regain lost ground.

Have you ever encountered a setback that left you dazed, uncertain, and full of fear?

Perhaps you stepped out in obedience to what you believed was God’s call, but circumstances shifted, obstacles arose, and you’re not reaching the goal.  Perhaps you’ve even begun to question whether you heard God clearly and made the right decision in the first place.

Sometimes God’s plan just doesn’t make sense to us.

For the Israelites leaving slavery in Egypt, the most logical route to the Promised Land was straight along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.  After a few battles with the Philistines, the Isrealites thought they’d march right into Canaan after no more than a month-long journey.

God had other plans.  Exodus 13:17 tells us: “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, ‘Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.'”

Sometimes God takes us the long way around for our own benefit.  In her book One in a Million, Prisicllar Shirer writes that “the wilderness is often safer than the alternative” (p 73).  God chose the wilderness for His people.  Maybe He’s chosen it for you, as well, for your protection and personal growth.

Even after the Israelites followed the pillars of cloud and fire in the direction God had chosen to take them, there were still setbacks.  In Exodus 14:2, God said, “Tell the people of Israel to turn back.”

Turn back?

God led them one way only to turn them around and march them off in a different direction?  Did it seem like God had momentarily lost His compass in the desert?

And yet, this turning back placed the Israelites on the banks of the Red Sea and the only way across now was through His miraculous deliverance.

He turned them around so that He could save them.

So, what do we do as we make confusing desert tracks in the wilderness in our efforts to follow God’s lead?

We could give up.  We could question our listening skills.  We could doubt God’s leadership.  We could stomp off and follow our own course.

Or we could remain focused on our goal and the passion God has placed in our hearts.  That’s the only way the Israelites made it to the Promised Land.  It’s the only way we’ll receive all that God has promised us.

It’s also the only way Nehemiah saw the walls of Jerusalem rebuilt.  Kelly Minter in her book Nehemiah: A Heart That Can Break, writes:

“After verbal assaults, physical threats, discouraged laborers, abuses of power and economic distress, Nehemiah never diverted his focus from the wall.  The process may have been slowed and altered as a result of enemies and wayward citizens, but the goal never changed.”

In fact, Nehemiah himself writes, “I also persevered in the work on this wall” (Nehemiah 5:16, ESV).

He continued to build despite threats, fear, confusion, discouragement, distractions and disappointments.  He continued to build despite setbacks.   He never stopped placing brick on top of brick on top of brick in obedience to God.

What has God asked you to build?  Choose today to place another brick on this wall instead of giving up because of obstacles and disappointments.  Choose to “persevere in the work on this wall.”

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

Lessons from the Theater, Part One

For those reading Lisa Harper’s book, Stumbling Into Grace, along with my small group, today’s devotional will match up with her thirteenth chapter, “Putting Down the Pen.”

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It was January when the director called me and asked me to work on the music for a November production of Hello, Dolly!  She was planning that far in advance.

Now it’s November and the past few weeks for my husband, who was in the show, and for me, supporting behind the scenes, were busy and exciting, rewarding, hectic and a whole lot of fun.  But it’s done.  The curtain closed. The final bows taken.  The set stashed away in pieces.

Still I have theater on the brain.  So, this week, I’m sharing some devotional thoughts borne out of the long involvement with a great show.

Lesson One: God Will Complete Your Story

For the characters in a story like Hello, Dolly!, the happy ending is assured from the beginning.  When they sing that final song, everyone has their job, their love, their relationships restored and their future seems assured of success and happiness.

They do, after all, live happily ever after.

For us, though, the easy resolution to all the conflict in our story may seem elusive.  It doesn’t always appear like the Author of our life is wrapping it all up with a nice tidy bow.  And it sure does take a lot longer than two hours to fix all of our life’s crises.

In fact, so much of the time we might feel like we’re in stasis.

I’ve felt this way recently.  It seems like so many of the areas of my life are in some holding pattern.  Just waiting.  Waiting for an answer, a provision, a direction, a progression.  Waiting for God to shout, “Voila” and finally reveal what’s behind the curtain.

Maybe you’ve also felt impatient for the resolution to your story.  Maybe you’ve felt uncertain that God is ever going to fulfill your desires, provide answers, or allow you to move on.

In fact, it’s easy to begin feeling like God started writing your story and then abandoned you for other projects.

Yet, God’s Word promises us that God, “who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6, NIV).

While ultimately our final curtain call doesn’t come until we’re standing before Christ in heaven, He’s carrying us “on to completion” every step of the way.  Even when we feel like we’re standing still or taking two steps back, He’s really moving us forward.

So, when we feel the hopelessness of a bleak unpromising future, we can remember that God doesn’t intend to abandon any of us along the journey.  He doesn’t grow bored with our progress and forget to complete our story.  Instead, He declares, “I know the plans I have for you . . . plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”  (Jeremiah 29:11).

That’s why when God met Hagar out in the wilderness after she ran away from her abusive mistress, He didn’t just ask her where she came from. Instead, He asked, “where have you come from, and where are you going?” (Genesis 16:8).

From the beginning of His conversation with her, He showed vested interest in her future destination.  Abandoning her out in the wilderness was never His intention.  So, He directed her steps, told her to return home, and promised her blessing in the birth of her son, Ishmael.

He promised her a hope and a future.

In the same way, when God called out to Moses from the burning bush to talk about the oppression of Israel as slaves, He said, “So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8).

God didn’t just intend to rescue them and then leave them to their own devices.  “You’re free!  Now happy life!”

Oh no, from the beginning of the Exodus story, God clearly told Moses that they were headed out of Egypt so they could travel to the Promised Land.

God had a plans for Israel, plans to give them a very specific hope and a future.

For Abraham, the destination of the Promised Land was the same, but God didn’t give him all the details in advance.  “The LORD had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you'” (Genesis 12:1).

Yet, even though Abraham didn’t know the final destination in advance, he could be assured of one thing.  God had a plan. There was the promise from the beginning that God had a land in mind just for Abraham and his family.

In her study, The Patriarchs, Beth Moore notes: “When He tells us to leave one place as He told Abram, He has another place for us to go.  God may not reveal the destination for a while, but we can rest assured we’re never called out without being called to” (p. 15).

If He’s called you out, He’s called you to a place of promise.  And He’ll be faithful to complete your story, carrying you forward on this journey even when you can’t tell you’re moving.  That’s because He has a plan to give you a hope and a future.

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