When You Have to Squint Your Eyes to See the Beauty–a devotion from my garden

Sometimes you have to fight for the glory and squint your eyes tight to find the wonder.

Like today.

My daughter woke me up early.  She was ready for the day; I wanted to enjoy a little more night, and so the morning began with a headache, fatigue and maybe a not-so-cheerful attitude.by Alexandr Rozhkov;

Then, just as I began to settle into the day, I glanced up at the calendar at 7:58 and realized the heating and air conditioning repairman was coming between 8 and 8:30 a.m.  Oops, forgot that one.

He came at 8:20 and normally that time for me is for morning tea and long devotions, starting the week with God and then writing.

But how to be inspired and still with God, how to type out these words on the computer when he’s banging parts and dismantling pieces?  Then he calls out, “Ma’am?” and I flinch because I know it’s not to tell me good news.

My to-do list was long.  The laundry piled high.  The sink stacked with morning dishes.

But I’m fighting for this, so I open to Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg:

“God desires to captivate us not just with his handiwork but with Himself–displaying facets of His character, igniting us with His fiery love, awakening us to the intensity of His holiness” (11).

Captivate me, Lord.  Right here, this tiny person in this moment when all the mundane is pressing heavy on my heart and I’m just about suffocated from the stifling weight of it all.

Feinberg tells me that this is what God desires and I wonder: If I’m not feeling it, is it because I’ve shut Him down and crowded Him out?  Is He willing to reignite me and I’m unwilling to notice?

I flip through my Bible to Hebrews 12:28-29:

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

It starts with thanks, gratitude that anything that shakes apart the foundation of my day can’t touch the foundation of His kingdom, my faith, or eternity with Him–Not early mornings, interrupted routines, home repairs, not even the incessant grinding of the daily.

It requires worship grounded in reverence and awe because my God, Savior, Friend, and Lover of my Soul, is a Consuming Fire, and even on days when I’m just seeing the tiniest ember and flicker of that holy flame, He remains the same.

In Scripture, Elisha stood with his prophet-mentor, Elijah, and asked so boldly for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit (2 Kings 2:9).  So, when I read Elisha’s story, I expect the miracles all to be earth-shattering, all fire from heaven with awe and wonder.

It was Elijah, after all, who staged the showdown with the prophets of Baal, who predicted a long and devastating drought over the land and then foretold the rain that started as one tiny cloud as big as a man’s fist.  He went head-to-toe with Ahab and Jezebel until he was whisked away to heaven in a flaming chariot.

The double-portion of that Spirit must be pretty spectacular.

But when I read Elisha’s story, he made foul water fit to drink.  He cursed a group of taunting boys who called him “baldy.”  He gave oil to a poor widow, made some poisonous stew safe for consumption.  And when an ordinary worker dropped his ax in the lake, Elisha made the ax head float on the water.

It was everyday stuff, most of it.  He had a few moments, like raising a boy from the dead.  Overall, though, it seems so mundane.  So everyday.  He helped people eat and drink.  Helped them work and not have to trek to Home Depot for some new tools.

And maybe that’s the reminder here.  Maybe it takes even more faith to look for the power and spirit of God at work in the smallest of needs and the most everyday of circumstances.

Swamp milkweedI look out of the window over my kitchen sink while I wash the last cereal bowl and see the plants we bought the day before, still waiting to be planted in the dirt of our garden.  We went on a hunt for milkweed to attract monarch butterflies and came home with these two green pots.

They look like the smallest and plainest of dead sticks.  My daughter was skeptical.  Could this brown spindly stalk grow anything beautiful?  Is it even alive?

But today I’ve fought for the wonder and the glory.

Today, I’ve determined to plant and nurture the pitiful, the brown, the spindly, the weak, the seeming lifeless–and wait for God to cultivate and grow the glory and the beauty.

Yes, in my garden.  Yes, in my life and heart.

Captivate me, Lord, today.

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

To read more Devotions from my Garden, you can click here!

Originally posted April 22, 2013

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

What are you waiting for?

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Originally published July 2, 2012 as Devotions from My Garden: What Are You Waiting for?

So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit (Galatians 6:9 MSG).

We planted in pots and crates on our deck, tiny seedlings of cucumbers, tomatoes in three varieties and jalapeno peppers.

Then we waited.

And waited.

And waited.013

We watered.  We tended.

But mostly we waited.

From one day to the next, the leaves didn’t appear to expand and the stems didn’t seem to reach any higher than the day before or the day before that.

It took standing back and surveying growth over time for us to notice we had plants and not seedlings any longer.  Then there were the first tiny yellow flowers on the cucumber plant.

The day we spotted the tiniest baby tomato, I called all three of my daughters over to see.  There we stood, a mom and three girls gently pushing aside green leaves to marvel at the promise of growth.

And then we waited some more.

And waited.

And waited.

For signs of ripeness and readiness for harvest.

Gardening, like life, is so often about waiting.  The difference, though, is that we waited for our first vegetables with anticipation and excitement.  We tracked the progress and closely watched the physical signs of a promising future because we knew the day would come when we sat down to salad and salsa from our garden.

But in life we often wait with a hopeless aggravation and a frustrating impatience.

We wait on God, tapping our foot and glancing often at our wrists with urgency.

Perhaps, though, we should wait for God, watching the signs of growth, rejoicing over every bud and clapping our hands with joy every time we see a reminder that the harvest is coming.

This is how the crowds prepared for Jesus’ arrival:

“Now when Jesus returned, the crowds welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him” (Luke 8:40). 

Can you imagine the crowd watching the road for the first glimpse of Jesus’ sandal?  Perhaps kids ran back and forth bringing news of Jesus’ journey.  “He’s coming.  He’s near.  He’s closer.  He’s just around the corner.”

He’s here!

Imagine the hush of the people.  They weren’t whining about the wait or postulating that perhaps Jesus wasn’t coming after all.

No, they were likely listening intently for the first sound of His voice chatting with His followers as He traveled on the road.

This is how we wait for God–we look forward with excited anticipation and uncontainable joy for the moment we see God at work.

And while we wait, we prepare to receive all that He’s bringing our way.

Like the kings who faced the overwhelming enemy might of Moab, we wait for God’s promise.  He said He would:

“fill the ditches in the dry streambed with water” overnight and without wind or rain.  Yes, He would bring the refreshment and victory they needed (2 Kings 3:16-18).

In the very next chapter, Elisha tells the destitute widow to gather “empty vessels and not too few” and then the Lord filled as many as she gathered with rich oil, saving her from starvation and poverty (2 Kings 4:3).

In two back-to-back passages, God miraculously fills His people up to the brim, giving them all they had prepared to receive.

So we grab as many jugs and cups and bowls and pots and buckets as we can hoping not to miss out on one drop of God’s provision.

We stand at the foot of the dry streambed and rather than complaining about our parched throat, we should dress in a swimsuit, ready to dive into the pools overflowing with His miraculous water-without-rain.

It’s waiting still, surely, as we watch for the signs, the growth, the buds, the tiniest hint of what is to come.  We look for God-movement here and there, projecting change and something new.

It can be scary.  Sometimes waiting is what we know.  Change, even good change, can worry us.

So what are we to do?

See the signs of God on the move, the promises of harvest, and yet refuse to budge?  “No thanks, God, I’ll stick with what I have and what I know because at least I’ve dug into a trench of trusty comfort and reliability.”

Or do we hang my shoulders in defeat and stomp away, not seeing the harvest quickly enough?  Tired of waiting, we dump over the vessels waiting for oil or walk away from the streambed thirsty for water . . . turning away from those waiting for the first sight of Jesus and choosing instead to complain at home that He didn’t come.

Or we could wait, joyfully and with excitement, nervous perhaps but ready nonetheless.  Jumping up and down trying to see Jesus over the heads of the crowd, we could wait for God, not wait on Him.

This is how we reap the harvest, when “we don’t give up, or quit” (Galatians 6:9).  This is how we don’t miss out on one drop of what God has planned.

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

Captivated

Sometimes you have to fight for the glory and squint your eyes tight to find the wonder.

Like today.

My daughter woke me up early.  She was ready for the day; I wanted to enjoy a little more night, and so the morning began with a headache, fatigue and maybe a not-so-cheerful attitude.

Then, just as I began to settle into the day, I glanced up at the calendar at 7:58 and realized the heating and air conditioning repairman was coming between 8 and 8:30 a.m.  Oops, forgot that one.

He came at 8:20 and normally that time for me is for morning tea and long devotions, starting the week with God and then writing.

But how to be inspired and still with God, how to type out these words on the computer when he’s banging parts and dismantling pieces?  Then he calls out, “Ma’am?” and I flinch because I know it’s not to tell me good news.

My to-do list was long.  The laundry piled high.  The sink stacked with morning dishes.

But I’m fighting for this, so I open to the first day of my new Bible Study, Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg:

“God desires to captivate us not just with his handiwork but with Himself–displaying facets of His character, igniting us with His fiery love, awakening us to the intensity of His holiness” (11).

Captivate me, Lord.  Right here, this tiny person in this moment when all the mundane is pressing heavy on my heart and I’m just about suffocated from the stifling weight of it all.

Feinberg tells me that this is what God desires and I wonder: If I’m not feeling it, is it because I’ve shut Him down and crowded Him out?  Is He willing to reignite me and I’m unwilling to notice

I flip through my Bible to Hebrews 12:28-29:

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”

It starts with thanks, gratitude that anything that shakes apart the foundation of my day can’t touch the foundation of His kingdom, my faith, or eternity with Him–Not early mornings, interrupted routines, home repairs, not even the incessant grinding of the daily.

It requires worship grounded in reverence and awe because my God, Savior, Friend, and Lover of my Soul, is a Consuming Fire, and even on days when I’m just seeing the tiniest ember and flicker of that holy flame, He remains the same.

In Scripture, Elisha stood with his prophet-mentor, Elijah, and asked so boldly for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit (2 Kings 2:9).  So, when I read Elisha’s story, I expect the miracles all to be earth-shattering, all fire from heaven with awe and wonder.

It was Elijah, after all, who staged the showdown with the prophets of Baal, who predicted a long and devastating drought over the land and then foretold the rain that started as one tiny cloud as big as a man’s fist.  He went head-to-toe with Ahab and Jezebel until he was whisked away to heaven in a flaming chariot.

The double-portion of that Spirit must be pretty spectacular.

But when I read Elisha’s story, he made foul water fit to drink.  He cursed a group of taunting boys who called him “baldy.”  He gave oil to a poor widow, made some poisonous stew safe for consumption.  And when an ordinary worker dropped his ax in the lake, Elisha made the ax head float on the water.

It was everyday stuff, most of it.  He had a few moments, like raising a boy from the dead.  Overall, though, it seems so mundane.  So everyday.  He helped people eat and drink.  Helped them work and not have to trek to Home Depot for some new tools.

And maybe that’s the reminder here.  Maybe it takes even more faith to look for the power and spirit of God at work in the smallest of needs and the most everyday of circumstances.

Swamp milkweedI look out of the window over my kitchen sink while I wash the last cereal bowl and see the plants we bought the day before, still waiting to be planted in the dirt of our garden.  We went on a hunt for milkweed to attract monarch butterflies and came home with these two green pots.

They look like the smallest and plainest of dead sticks.  My daughter was skeptical.  Could this brown spindly stalk grow anything beautiful?  Is it even alive?

But today I’ve fought for the wonder and the glory.

Today, I’ve determined to plant and nurture the pitiful, the brown, the spindly, the weak, the seeming lifeless–and wait for God to cultivate and grow the glory and the beauty.

Yes, in my garden.  Yes, in my life and heart.

Captivate me.

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, 06/30/2012: Life in Slow Motion

Hiding the Word:

Five puzzles, six books (or more), one game of Memory, word searches, and some tricycle training . . .

That’s what happens when we lose power or Internet at our house.  Life slows down.  When a daughter appears with board game in hand and a pleading look on her face, I have no excuse to give, no busyness to distract, nothing to prevent me from sitting  . . . and playing . . . and resting with my kids

I complain and whine with the best of them about the loss of conveniences and comfort and I’d prefer running water with temperature control and the ability to cook meals and refrigerate food any day of the week.

But a day without email and the telephone . . . well, that’s a welcome vacation sometimes.

So, after an unexpected extreme thunderstorm hit our area last night, I’m thinking about rest and all that it means and I’m choosing a verse to meditate on this week that compels me to be refreshed in Christ.

“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest'” (Mark 6:31).

In Jesus: The One and Only, Beth Moore notes that “the original word for rest in this verse is anapauoPauo means “to cease, give rest.”  Guess what ana means?  “Again!”  We don’t need this kind of rest just once.  We need it again and again” (p. 116).

And again  . . . and again . . . and again.

Weekend Rerun:

The Holy Act of Doing Dishes

Originally posted on September 2, 2011

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:13

A week ago to the day, I was escaping the mundane and the daily to retreat to Women of Faith.  Even with the interruption and distraction of a hurricane, I managed to get away for one of the intended two days and it was uplifting, encouraging, and challenging.

I walked away from that trip with some verses and thoughts that I’m deeply weighing, considering and praying through.  It’s trite to say that a conference or speaker or book “changed my life.”  Yet, it happens all the time.  I read a new perspective and alter my behavior.  I listen to a speaker and adjust my thinking.

Life-changing events can happen more often than we realize.  Shouldn’t we be transforming daily into the image of God’s Son? Life changes don’t necessarily require “bigness.”  It’s not just choosing whom to marry or deciding to change careers that qualifies.  Instead, it means trimming this, discarding that, washing away this, and adding that so every day we’re making the changes that bring us one step closer to Jesus.

So, I can truly say that the speakers at Women of Faith this year changed my life.  And so did being without power for 5-1/2 days following Hurricane Irene.  And so has having the power restored last night. I’m different today than I was a week ago.

You see, last Thursday I was longing to escape from the repetitiveness of my everyday—the dishes, the laundry, the sweeping and mopping, the cleaning up and vacuuming and more.

Today, I was thanking God all morning.  For what?

For safety in the storm, surely.  But also that today I can wash my dishes with running water and a dishwasher.  And I scrubbed my counters with a rag dumped in soapy water instead of a Clorox wipe.  I vacuumed instead of picking up large pieces of child-debris by hand.  Praise God for the chance to vacuum!  All morning I have listened to the humming and spinning of the washer and dryer.  I’m thankful that I can use these machines to give my family clean clothes.

If only they had a machine to fold the clothes and put them away.  But, that’s another story . . . and probably heaven.

I truly believe in the value of spiritual retreating.  Christ Himself called His disciples away from the crowds and busyness of their lives to spend time with him alone.  Often, Jesus would send His disciples on ahead of Him while He remained to pray alone long into the night.

Sometimes we need to go away, to escape all that distracts us here so we can fix our attention on Him there.

And then the real work begins. Meeting God when we have set aside time for Him is expected.  We listen to speakers, we pray, we worship, or maybe we even head for a private retreat into the mountains where we pour out our hearts to Him and then sit in silence as He speaks to us.

We anticipate seeing God in the specifically designated portions of our lives we call “Spiritual” and the times we have set aside as “Holy.”

Then we must return to the daily life in all its mundane activity and we must carry into that everyday behavior all that we learned in the holy moments we had set aside.

Can mopping the floor be spiritual?  Can folding clothes be a God-moment? Can doing dishes be part of my quiet time?

If we deny Him a place in the mundane day-to-day life, confining Him instead to a corner of our hearts designated “God stuff,”  then we miss Him and what He’s doing in us and through us.

It’s what the prophet Jeremiah wrote: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  Not spiritual heart pieces and holy corners, but all that is in our heart searches after God.

Naaman almost missed finding God.  He was a big-shot, who commanded the army of the king of Aram.  “He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy” (2 Kings 5:1).

Hearing about Elisha the prophet, Naaman traveled to him to receive healing.  Elisha didn’t even come out of his house to meet with the big, important army commander.  Instead, Elisha sent out a messenger with some simple instructions: “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”

This was so . . . .basic.  So unimpressive.  So nonspiritual.  So, “Naaman went away angry and said, ‘I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy” (2 Kings 5:11).

Naaman wanted a magic show with special effects rather than an order to take seven baths in the Jordan.  But, his servants challenged him: “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed!’” (2 Kings 5:13).

A few dips in the Jordan later, Naaman’s leprosy was totally healed.  All because he obeyed God in something simple and unimpressive.

If we have our eyes set only on the spectacular, we will miss God’s healing and cleansing work in our everyday lives.

Will I manage to keep this perspective over time?  Probably not.  I will likely grow weary and burdened with the stresses of daily busyness.  I’ll need to retreat again, stepping away from it all to focus solely on God.

But then I’ll come back home where dishes and laundry and homework is what happens here and that, yes even that dailyness, changes my life bit by little bit.

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, 06/09/2012: Searching for Water in the Desert

Hiding the Word:

For the last few days, we’ve been waving at each other from the rear view mirror of our cars.

At least that’s how it feels.  My husband is performing in a show for the next two weeks.  The girls and I have been flitting here and there to concerts, day trips, birthday parties, doctor’s appointments and more.  Plus we’ve started rehearsals for a show of our own.

I kiss my husband goodbye in the morning before he grabs his bagged lunch from the counter.  The next thing I know, I’m waking up to the sound of his car pulling into the driveway past my bedtime.

It’s okay.  It’s temporary.  His show will end.  Our summer groove will settle into place.  We’ll have other weeks of craziness, but nights of rest as well.

But just for today, just for this moment, I am thinking how nice it would be to chat with him about his day and talk about how all this whirlwind of life is going.  If we could talk without children interrupting, fighting, or protesting their bedtime routine, even better.

It’s why I would have failed as a Navy wife–my need for the continuance of connection.  One night without the phone call after his work day, one day when he’s up early and home late, and I miss my husband.  I make determined efforts to sit by his side and hear what happened in his life that day.

Because if you don’t make the time, it generally doesn’t just happen on its own.

How long can you go before you miss God?  How many days can slip past before you feel the void of His presence and mourn the loss of connection with Him?

If we’re walking in intimacy with our God, shouldn’t we miss Him the moment we’ve started a day without prayer or the instant we’ve flown past our quiet time?

On the busiest days, when a snack (preferably chocolate) and mindless television seem the answer to my tired body and exhausted mind, that’s exactly when I long for God the most. Because if I don’t make the time, it doesn’t just magically happen.

It’s the day when I missed my afternoon cup of tea over Scripture because I’m out and about with frenetic activity that I flop into my dining room chair in the first moments after my kids’ bedtime.  I take one long indulgent sip sweet hot tea, open up my Bible and pray, “Dear Jesus, how I’m desperate for You today.  Pleas meet me in this place.”

Since life is crazy, I’ve chosen a verse for the week that reminds us all of how desperately we should seek after intimacy with God:

O God, you are my God;
    I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
    my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
    where there is no water
(Psalm 63:1 NLT)

This time with God isn’t a luxury.  It’s not a bonus, an extra, an amenity, or a perk.

It’s life itself.  It’s as simple as desperation for water for a soul in the desert.

Let’s seek Him earnestly this week, making it an active and engaged pursuit of His presence.  Making it a priority, not just nonchalantly hoping a few minutes of unstructured time will show up in our day.  Because if we don’t make it happen, it never will.

Weekend Rerun:

Well-Hunting in the Desert

Originally posted on July 20, 2011

 

“Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs”
(Isaiah 35:6-7).

When we first moved into this house, we quickly discovered something unnoticed during the walk-through or inspection.  The water smelled like rotten eggs. As a result, I was brushing my teeth with bottled water and holding my breath while taking a shower.

Like any good 21st century homeowners, we Google-searched our way into solutions and scoured the Internet for answers.  Which we found.  Simply open the top of our well and shock the water with a $1 jug of bleach.

Sounded easy.  Until we realized that somewhere on this half acre of land is the top to a well that we could not find.  We knew it had to be there.  We had running water and didn’t pay the city for it.  We consulted drawings of our property and sheepishly hinted to the water specialist (whom we had to call since we couldn’t fix the stinky water ourselves, having not found the well), that we really would like to know where the well was hidden on this land of ours.  He wasn’t helpful.

We have a guess as to where it might be, but we are in some ways still well-hunters, searching for the source of our water, assuming its presence without seeing it ourselves.

I’ve been well-hunting recently in real life, too.  Like Hagar, wandering in the wilderness, running low on provisions, hopelessly lost and not able to go back and yet not certain where to go instead. Out there in her wilderness, “God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water” (Genesis 21:19).

“Open my eyes,” I’ve prayed, “to the well of your provision, to the fountain of Your presence, to the water of sustenance and hope. I want to see the well You have provided in this desert place.”

Because I’m parched and yet I feel like I’m drowning.

It’s so often God’s way to bring water and with it so much more to those in His care.

To Hagar, a well in the desert that she hadn’t seen before.

To Elijah, “bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water” to sustain him on a 40-day walk to the Mountain of God (1 Kings 19:6).

To the Israelites who complained, “there is no water to drink!,” He brought forth water from rock.

For the redeemed, He promises that “water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs” (Isaiah 35:6-7).

To the woman sitting next to a well with a jar on her shoulder, Living Water drawn up even without a bucket (John 4:10).

Out of nothing, amidst wilderness and desert, even burning sand, He brings water that heals, sustains, provides, and gives life eternal.  He brings it in abundance with bubbling springs, streams filled so quickly that they are pooling, water we could drink that would satisfy us forever.  All out of nothing.

We could spend our lives sitting by clear-running streams of water, never risking the travel through the valley.  We could pitch our tents there by the known source of water and never lose sight of the well, never grow uncomfortable, never walk far enough away to be uncertain of provision, never venture one step into the wilderness.

But we’d never make it to the Mountain of God like Elijah and the Israelites.  Never know the God Who Sees like Hagar.  Never know the Giver of Living Water like the woman at the well.

So, as we scan the horizon and see only barren land, rocks of gray and dusty earth cracked from lack of rain, we search for the well.  It’s there.  Maybe hidden now so that we cannot see, but God works in the hidden places to bring us provision at the exact moment of our need.

David searched for the well in the desert.  He wrote:

“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).

and

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:1-2)

David, my fellow well-hunter, knew the best way to find the hidden water, even when his soul was downcast, even when he thirsted for God’s presence like a deer dehydrated after too long a journey away from the stream.

  • Put your hope in God.
  • Praise Him even in sorrow.
  • Remember what God has done.

He says: Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.  My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you (Psalm 42:5-6).

Years ago, Caedmon’s Call sang these words: “Down in the valley, dying of thirst.  Down in the valley, it seems that I’m at my worst.  My consolation is that You baptize this earth when I’m down in the valley.  Valleys fill first.”

Valleys fill first, my friend.  When God brings the water, when He rains down “showers of blessing” in their season (Ezekiel 34:26), the valley is where you will want to be so that you can fully receive all that He pours over your head.

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.

I Want to See

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people”
Ephesians 1:18, NIV

I grew up with a brother who had an eagle eye.  On car trips, he always spotted the deer far off in the fields that lined the road or saw the eagle soaring overhead.  He’d tell us all, “Look over there!  Do you see it? ” and I’d crane my neck and twist my body, quickly searching to catch a glimpse.

I always saw absolutely . . . nothing.  Ultimately, everyone else in my family would point along with him and shout, “There it is!  I see it!”  Not me.   I saw empty fields and cloud-filled skies.

That’s partly because my vision is so poor, but even with glasses I never could see what any of them saw.   Mostly it’s because I’m unobservant.  I am usually far too focused on whatever I’m thinking about to notice my surroundings.  My husband can shave off a beard he’s had for months and I won’t realize it until he physically moves my hand to his now-smooth face.  I’m the one who asks her friends, “Did you get a haircut?  or Did you get new glasses?”  And they say, “Yeah, about two months ago.”  Oops!  It’s not that I didn’t care, but I just didn’t see.

I’m unobservant sometimes with God, too.  Last week, I was writing about His amazing, abundant grace and I prayed, “Lord, I don’t feel this.  I know about Your grace and I know the verses that tell me about Your grace, but today I just want to feel it and know it personally.  Would you open my eyes and reveal this to me once again?  Help me to be fully aware of Your unfailing love and mercies made new every day.”

From prayer to productivity, off I went about the business and busyness of my day, distracted and hyper-focused on the needs at hand.  Night came.  No grace-revelation.  My feelings didn’t change.  Nothing seemed made new.

Then the phone rang, my mom, her voice serious.  She tells me—just so I know—-that a man often-welcomed in our home when I was growing up had just been arrested for hurting teenage girls.  “Rape of a Minor,” in the cold, official way the courts put it.

And there was grace, overwhelming, astonishing, and unmistakable.

God opened my eyes to see His powerful work in my life, even as a child, preserving me from harm.  He had protected me and I hadn’t even known I had tread on dangerous ground.   Nothing in my circumstances changed that night, but God opened my eyes to see the grace already at work.

In Genesis 21, Hagar ran off into the wilderness with her son for a second time.   During her first misadventure years earlier, she had run away from Sarah, her mistress, because of the abuse and mistreatment borne out of Sarah’s jealousy.  God met Hagar on her way to her native Egypt and sent her back to Abraham and Sarah.

Now, here she was again, this time wandering in the Desert of Beersheba.  She didn’t even attempt to travel to Egypt this time.  With all the years she had spent away from her homeland, it probably didn’t even seem like home anymore.  Sarah had demanded that Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son” (Genesis 21:10, NIV), and so he did.  He arose early the next day, packed Hagar a picnic lunch of “some food and a skin of water,” loaded the supplies onto her shoulders and sent her away with her son, Abraham’s son.

Now, here was Hagar.—-Homeless, single mother, without friends, caring for her boy in unfamiliar desert and running out of supplies.

Her circumstances were desperate.  Placing Ishmael under a bush, she walked away so she wouldn’t have to watch him die.  “And as she sat there, she began to sob” (Genesis 21:18).

It’s in the impossible situations where God is often most visible. So it was with Hagar.  God visited once again with Hagar and asked:

“What is the matter, Hagar?  Do not be afraid;  God has heard the boy crying as he lies there.  Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”  Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink”  (Genesis 21:17-19).

Nothing about Hagar’s circumstances changed.  Still a homeless single mother.  Still without friends or direction.  Although it is possible that God miraculously placed a new well nearby, Scripture says “God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.” It seems to me that the only thing that changed was Hagar’s vision.  Blinded by impossibilities and overwhelmed with despair, Hagar had given up when a well was so close.  God revealed to her grace and provision that she simply hadn’t seen before.

In the same way, God miraculously gave supernatural sight to Elisha’s servant in 2 Kings 6:15-17.  Surrounded by an impossibly large enemy army with horses and chariots, the servant cried out in despair, “Oh no, my lord!  What shall we do?”  Clearly, they were doomed to defeat.  Yet, Elisha assured his anxious friend:

“‘Don’t be afraid . . . those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’  And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:15-17).

Suddenly their odds of winning didn’t seem so impossible anymore, yet their reality was unchanged.  Those heavenly defenders had been there all along; the servant simply hadn’t seen them.

Last night, I sat next to a woman at dinner and she shared with me her past so drenched in pain, hurt and betrayal, and her life marred by abuse, murder, suicide.  Now, though, God had opened her eyes to His love and healing, drawing her close so He could redeem and restore her.  I cannot say why God preserved me from harm and yet this woman, still so precious to God, had been hurt.  Yet, everyone’s story is a story of grace.  Mine the grace of preservation.   Hers the grace of perseverance.  Our eyes, previously so blind, were now opened to God’s presence and activity.

In Mark 10:51, Jesus asks the blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?” and he answers, “Rabbi, I want to see.”  I echo that.  “Lord, I want to see your grace and your activity in my life.  Show me  your miraculous wells of provision and your plan for me.  Reveal to me your might and your ability to deliver me from the seemingly impossible situations.”  So often we pray for provision, deliverance and healing, but what we are really lacking is vision–the ability to see grace already present in the midst of our circumstances.

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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

Traveling Companions

On Tuesday nights, I sit at a table with other women, Bibles open.  We ask—What’s going on in your life?  What does the Bible say?  Where are you headed?  Where have you been?  What do you need?  How can I pray for you?

It’s a safe place, an encouraging place, a challenging place, a growing place, a grace place, a truth place.

I love these women, each so uniquely designed by God with pasts so different, but hope in Christ the same.  They are my traveling companions.

And this is what we need, really.  Community.  Strength from relationships.  Just how far would Naomi have made it in her travels if Ruth hadn’t insisted on packing a bag for the journey, too?  Naomi —A hurt woman, weighed by age and life, far from her homeland, changing her name to Mara—“Bitterness”— and trekking back to her people, her nation, her God.  Widow Naomi.   Now childless Naomi.  Without Ruth, Naomi would probably have been buried along the pathway, lost and alone.  With Ruth, came strength, companionship, blessing.  A new home.  Food from Ruth’s work gleaning in the fields.  Redemption by Kinsman-Redeemer Boaz through Ruth’s marriage.  And a place in the lineage of King David, of Jesus, through Ruth and Boaz’s son.

All because of tenacious friendship, of shared pain and faith, of the self-sacrifice of one friend to another.

Then there’s Elijah.  The bold and courageous prophet who, in the showdown of all showdowns against 450 prophets of Baal, had demonstrated God’s glory before all the people of Israel.  Fire from heaven consumed a sacrifice soaked and an altar pouring over with water.   The people “fell prostrate and cried, ‘The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!'” (1 Kings 18:39, NIV).

Immediately after this victory, Queen Jezebel threatens to kill him and “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.  When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness” (1 Kings 19:3-4, NIV).

Elijah’s mistake was in the traveling alone.  He ran to Beersheba—the southernmost portion of the land—and then he left his servant and ran for another whole day by himself.  Alone.  No companion to speak truth into his heart.  No friend to share his burden and pray with him and point him back to God.  No accountability.  No encouragement.  No truth-speaking.  No love.

It’s what happens when we journey without a traveling companion.

And so Elijah sat on a mountain, dejected, depressed, overcome with fear and grief and bitterness.  God met him in that place, talked him out of the cave and down off the precipice.  The very next thing God did was give him a friend.

So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat . . . Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him…Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant (1 Kings 19:19-21, NIV).

Elijah needed Elisha.  Partner, friend, servant, apprentice.

Not just any traveling companion will do, though.  Who we walk with determines where we go.  Some make the journey harder or full of obstacles or lead us astray to shortcuts and paths unknown.

Just ask Abraham.

Abram and Sarah didn’t set out for Canaan alone.

Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there.   Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Harran (Genesis 11:31-32, NIV).

God called Abram out of Ur, told him to pack his bags and get going on a journey at God’s direction.  And Abram obeyed, taking his father, Terah, and his nephew, Lot.  But, something happened along the way.  It’s a mysterious blank.  We can’t peek into the windows of the family tent and overhear the discussion.  Something happened and they stopped before reaching their destination. 

They didn’t just check in for an overnight rest in the Motel 8.  They settled there.  And when Abram’s dad passed away, that’s when the journey began again.  That’s when God called Abram once more and told him to keep moving forward on the path that had so mysteriously been interrupted.

Sometimes our traveling companions convince us to settle with less than God’s promises.  They look around at what the world has to offer and find fertile land and a good place to dwell. Pitching their tents, they urge us to make this our home.  Not God’s best, perhaps, not all that God has planned for us, but surely good enough.

The Apostle Paul, though, knew how to choose a traveling buddy.  Paul with Silas, singing praises in the prison in the night.  Paul with Barnabus–the Encourager—set aside for ministry to the Gentiles.  Paul and Timothy–building a church, building church leadership.

And Paul and Titus.  In 2 Corinthians 7:5-6, Paul wrote to the church, “For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn–conflicts on the outside, fears within.   But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus” (NIV).

Paul was the apostle who told us all things work for the good, to rejoice always and again rejoice, to be content in all circumstances, that God can supply all our needs, and do abundantly and immeasurably more than our wildest dreams.

Still, Paul was frightened at times, too.   Just like you and me, he had his moments.  God didn’t punish Paul for lack of faith or chastise his weakness.  Instead, God provided for a need.  Paul needed a traveling companion to bring comfort and encouragement in dark days.  Titus was God’s answer to Paul’s fear.

Paul knew this truly.  He usually traveled in partnership.  He had written: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ… for each one should carry their own load” (Galatians 6:2, 5, NIV).

It seems contradictory at first.  Carry each other’s burdens.  Each one carry their own load.  But there’s a difference here.  Paul says each one of us should do our own daily load of life, the everyday, the things we can handle.  Do it yourself.  Don’t lay your everyday over the back of someone else and kick back and relax while they struggle.

Burdens, though, are meant to be borne in partnership.  In community with each other, we lift up onto four shoulders what is far too heavy for just two.

That’s the way God designed us—to travel together.  Ruth with Naomi.  Elijah with Elisha.  Paul with Titus, with Silas, with Barnabas, with Timothy.  You and me, heading to Canaan, to Christ-likeness, to abundant life, shifting burdens onto backs along the way and laying them down at the cross together.  Alone we will not make it.   Together, though, we journey past obstacles, depression, fear, and discouragement, to our hoped-for destination, our Promised Land.

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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