Come Awake

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies”
Romans 8:22-23

We shuffled into the tiny unfamiliar building, two parents, three daughters behind.  The man asked me, “Do you need any help?”

“We’re here to visit a site, but I don’t know which one.”

“How long?”

“Ummm . . . (mental calculating) six years.”

He types into the computer as I dictate and prints out a map with instructions.  “Is this him?”

I pause.  For some reason, that question is difficult.  “I think, I mean yes, could it be, it must be, yes, that’s him.”  I read and reread the printout to make sure.

We walk out with paper in hand, follow the signs, count the rows, read the names.  “Here it is,” my husband announces.

And it’s . . . him.

My dad.

Daughters stoop down low and trace letters with fingers.  Was this his name?  Was this his birthday?  Was he a soldier?  Did he believe in God—is that why the cross?  Was he old?

No, not old, just sick, very sick.

I can feel the breeze of heaven in that place.

So many days now, I find myself praying, “Come, Lord Jesus.  Come quickly.”

Is there anything more to say at times?  For tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, wild fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, cancer, death, abused and neglected children—they are the aching screams and moans of an earth longing for its Creator. Death and death and death awaits new life when the trumpet sounds and Christ calls, “Come awake!”

C.S. Lewis wrote, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

That’s why this earth hangs loose on my shoulders, so ill-fitting. I pray, “Come, Jesus.  Come quickly.  Call us to break free from a world of death and live life eternal in Your presence because this place, this death-world is not home for us.”

Yes, Lord “haste the day when my faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll; the trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend even so, it is well with my soul” (Spafford).

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’  Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelations 22:20).

Come, Lord Jesus.

Yet, this resurrection thinking, this coming awake, is not just for my eternal future; it’s for the here and now of my life.  Christ renews and resurrects today.

He bids us “Come awake”
when we let spiritual gifts lie dormant
when we withdraw out of pain
when we hold the shattered remains of relationships in our hands
when we hurt and hide away
when we bury a dream
when we face a closed door
when our life season changes
when our rational selves tell us not to hope for what is impossible

Here I sit, still on this earth, still aching and longing for heaven, but living confined by this earthly shell.

Thus, I am reminded as I stand at my dad’s grave
to linger over
to wait upon
to enjoy
to bask in
to rest in
Christ’s presence
because there the scent of heaven is strong.

I ache for time with Him, for moments of worship and soaking in His Word.  Not to rush through and get done, shutting up Bible to turn on television or answer email.  Instead to sit quiet and still, me the saved one with Him the Savior.

This is how I “set (my) mind on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2).  This is how I respond as He calls me to “Come awake” and to exit tombs of unbelief and fatigue, of people pleasing and fear, of comfort and complacency, of hurt and brokenness.  I exit the tomb and rise to my Risen Lord.

David Crowder Band: Come Awake
Come awake, from sleep arise
You were dead, become alive
Wake up, wake up, open your eyes
Climb from your grave into the light
Bring us back to life

You are not the only one who feels like the only one
Night soon will be lifted, friend
Just be quiet and wait for a voice that will say
Rise, rise, to life, to life

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.”

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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

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.”

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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