Weekend Walk: Will Break for Beauty

We took a day off for beauty.

Yesterday, my youngest and I waved goodbye to her older sisters as they rode off to school and we climbed into the minivan for a drive on a sunny, warm but not too warm day, passing horse farms and the river and watching sunlight burst through the tops of trees, casting shadows here and brilliance there.

We traveled to see friends.  We don’t do this often enough, just sitting and talking, laughing,

watching kids play with toys.  In all of life’s busyness and the red circles around almost every day on the calendar, we don’t give enough time to friendship.

Sitting along the edge of the beach, we helped tip over buckets of moistened sand to form sand castles.  Pine needles and lost feathers, bits of shell and pebbles smoothed by the waves became castle flags and decorations.

Then we walked and collected treasures washed ashore by the tide.  Children see treasures in ways we do not.  I picked up unbroken shells, shiny, smooth, etched with color and patterns.  My little one picked up massive clam shells covered in barnacles and sand, murky in color and awkwardly shaped.  She handed me slivers of broken shells and even tried putting fistfuls of sand in her treasure bucket.

It was beauty to her.

What is it about the seaside that brings peace to the soul?  My friend says maybe it’s the rhythm of the waves.

I think she’s right.  I stood there for a moment and thought of the comfort it brings me knowing that the wave will come and another and another, in constant motion, totally faithful, reliable, trustworthy.

And that is our God.  He doesn’t wash over us and then pull back never to return again. He brings wave after wave of ever-coming, perpetual grace.  The world is an uncertain teeter-totter of a place, with unexpected terrors lurking around corners and surprises that drop us to the ground.

But God—He is faithful.  God—-He is always grace.  God—He is ever true.

After a stop at the school to pick up my older girls, we raced home to eat dinner and become beautiful: Choosing outfits, doing hair.  The girls fought over bracelets.

Then we met with other friends and drove once more, this time to see Ballet Magnificat, a professional Christian ballet company.

The music began.  Just instruments at first.  The dancers took to the stage and we watched and it was fine and it was okay.

But then one lone female voice sang,“Praise the Lord, O my soul and let all that is within me praise His name” and the dancer stretched her arms high in worship, her fingers almost touched heaven she was so long and outstretched.

And I caught my breath.

This was worship.  This was total abandon in praise to a God so worthy.

Yesterday, we took a break for beauty.  We paused and lingered long with friends and we filled our souls in the deep wells of nature and dance and worship.

I want to carry that along all this week and be intentional about it.

After beauty fills you up, it spills out and sloshes over the sides of your heart every time there is rushing, stress, tension, worry, boredom, work, monotony. 

We must work hard to protect the memory and refill often by taking a break for beauty, by seeking the soul-filling glory of God’s presence.

This week, I’ll be meditating on the verse to help me remember:

One thing I ask from the Lord,
    this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
    and to seek him in his temple
(Psalm 27:4)

To hear the song by Kristene Mueller that began Ballet Magnificat’s performance, you can click here or click Play on the video below 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.

It’s A Miracle!

The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him (Lamentations 3:25)

Years ago, the sweet man who led our choir then leaned back in his stool at the front of the choir room.  He told us in a slow southern drawl what he remembered about his mother. I think about his story often.

On the dark and stormy nights of his childhood, when the thunder raged and lightning struck close enough to illuminate his room, he would awaken to find his mom sitting in a chair at the foot of his bed.  She sat with him through the storms, praying over him, even while he continued to sleep.

That’s what he remembered about her: her presence in the stormy nights.

Last night, I supervised the brushing of teeth and the donning of pajamas, packing lunches and backpacks, and laying out clothes for the new day.  We read bedtime stories.  We prayed as a family.

This morning, I poured cereal and buttered toast.  I placed ice packs in the lunches and zipped up the backpacks, all full for the day.

I helped with shoes and socks, combed hair, and reminded my daughters (too many times) to brush their teeth and to do it well because they don’t want cavities or bad breath and, by the way, we’re going to the dentist next week.

Sticking my head out the door for a moment, I checked the weather.  Then I held jackets open for each girl to slip in her arms.  I broke up a fight and gave a crying daughter a hug, calmed her down, and then placed the two sisters on a school bus.

And the day went on with more little tasks and routine activities.

I don’t remember these moments from my childhood.  Do you?  I don’t remember my mom tying my shoes or helping me put on my jacket.  I don’t remember her supervising bath time or pulling my hair into pigtails.

Even though I don’t remember those things, she did them.  I was clean, fed, dressed, and groomed.  My life must have been filled with years and years of everyday love that I don’t remember.

Usually these acts of love remain unnoticed and undervalued . . . unless they’re missing.  Those children who aren’t fed well, bathed, read to, hugged, kept safe, and tucked into their own cozy beds at night feel the lack.  Only they perhaps really know how important the small things are.

What will my kids remember about this time with me? It’s not likely they’ll remember the moments of jackets and breakfasts and backpacks.  They don’t lack for these things.  They likely take them for granted, just as I did.

But they might remember something unique or big, just like the man who recalls his mom sitting with him through stormy nights.

I wonder, then, what do I remember about God, my Father?  When I tell about His presence in my life, what has become part of my story? Usually, it’s the stormy times when I awaken in fear only to find His presence by my side.  It’s the times He’s kept me safe and delivered me from danger.

Yet, we so often overlook the miracles of everyday grace, the simplest signs of His affection and the fact that He cares for our needs and yes, sometimes even our desires.

When we always look for the glorious miracle, the immediate and the extraordinary, we miss thanking God for the gradual, the expected, and the small.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “A slow miracle is no easier to perform than an instant one.”

Yet, we revel in the answers to prayer that come fast. The ones that don’t require interminable waiting and inconvenient patience.

We pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” and then miss the miracle of everyday provision—until it seems in jeopardy.

In the book of Nehemiah, the exiles who returned to Jerusalem skipped sleep, fended off enemies, prayed, and labored with a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other.  They hefted bricks until the walls of Jerusalem were complete, all in just 52 days.  It was a miracle.  Even their enemies knew that:

When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God (Nehemiah 6:16).

How easy it would be to forget that, though, because God chose not to build the walls with a word from His lips or destroy their enemies with an earthquake or flood.

As Kelly Minter writes in Nehemiah: A Heart That Can Break:

“It’s worth noting that so far we’ve read nothing of angels, burning bushes, or talking donkeys.  Instead, we’ve seen God use what we might consider ordinary to bring about extraordinary transformation: prayer, repentance, willingness, hard work, sacrifice, humility, faith.  Though miraculous displays of God’s power are to be desired and cherished, I’m equally impressed with God speaking silently to Nehemiah’s heart in the most ‘normal’ of circumstances.  Be encouraged that the common, everyday realities are ideal environments for God to put something in our hearts to do” (Minter 116).

Take time to thank God today for the daily bread, for forgiving our trespasses, for His mercies made new every morning, for His great faithfulness, and because He is good to you (Lamentations 3:23-26).  Thank Him for answered prayers and ministry opportunities.  Thank Him for the quiet ways He speaks to your heart and for the encouragement He brings you day after day.

It may not be spectacular, like fireworks in the night sky.  Still, it’s love.  That’s worth remembering.

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

Whatever You Do, Part I

Don’t forget the giveaway going on to celebrate the one-year anniversary of this blog!  You can read all about it here and posting a comment anywhere on the blog this week will enter you to win!!

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I’m not a crafty person.  I’m not a Pinterest pinner, a craft project blogger, or an Etsy addict. Oh, I admire the creativity of others (okay, perhaps ENVY their artsyness), but I’ve accepted my limits and stopped trying to feel comfortable in the aisles of Michael’s and Joann Fabrics.

Yet today I sit at my table with glitter, craft foam, stamps, stencils, markers, colored paper and scissors to complete one item on my day’s to-do list: Make personal Valentine’s for my three girls.

Years ago, a man from our church told me that you can do many great things for daughters, but there are only two necessary things: Let them know they are beautiful and let them know they are loved.

I’ve thought about this often.  Perhaps he is right.

If I remove these two primary insecurities, they will be free and brave enough to pursue their talents, develop their minds, take on difficult projects and reach out to people.

At least for today, this thought has inspired me to turn my limited crafting skill into the most basic of all art projects: a handmade card.  It’s not because I think the final outcome will be displayable or frameable.  I could buy a better-looking card for a few dollars off the Wal-Mart rack.

It’s because I know that my daughters feel special when I make things for them and I want them to know they are loved.

As I sit making a mess out of glue and paper, I think about a biography I’ve been reading of E.B.White, the American essayist and author of Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web and The Trumpet of the Swan.

In the summer following college, White grabbed a friend and a car and drove completely across the United States—before highways existed to make this kind of national crisscrossing an all-American past-time.  They stopped in small towns and performed odd jobs or sold bits of White’s writing to local newspapers so they could buy food and gas.  They slept outside or in the car or wherever they could.  Arriving on the West Coast, White then hopped on a ship bound for Alaska.

Elbow deep now in glitter, I marvel that a human being would take off across the country without a plan, without connections, without a return date.

Crazy man, that E.B. White!

We’re so often people looking for purpose in life.  We want a grand vision, a neon sign.  We want impact.  We want to know the one reason we exist on this earth.

For E.B. White, this meant trekking without a plan and discovering himself while discovering America.  Even so, I’m not jealous of him for all of his wanderings and adventures.

For as much as we overlook the beauties of the everyday, I wonder if they are truly the key to God’s greatest plan for us.

Surely God receives big glory from big things.  The massive ministry, the arena packed full, the bestseller, the major miracle, the international program, the made-into-a-movie-story bring Him grand-scale recognition.

Yet I believe a daily life well-lived brings Him glory, too.  My marriage strong and lasting.  My daughters beautiful and loved, learning their Awana verses and showing kindness.  My small-town impact to the cashier at Wal-Mart.  My weekly shelving of books in the school library.  My prayer time each week for the school and its staff.

This means that instead of always ignoring today for the sake of the grand design of tomorrow, we give God glory in our jobs and our homes and relationships and churches.  We do what He has called us to do here, now, in this moment.  We do it faithfully.  We work at it with all our heart.

God had a great plan for Joseph’s life, yet it was worked out in days, months and years of serving as a slave in Potiphar’s house and then, as a prisoner himself, overseeing others locked in Egyptian jail cells.

Joseph’s ministry all that time involved washing dishes, working fields, carrying messages, figuring accounts, and managing property.  It was his integrity and faithful hard work in the everyday tasks that allowed God to use him more and more.

In Genesis 39, we are told “The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man. . . . His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands.  So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had” (Genesis 39:2-4).

Had Joseph balked at the menial tasks of slavery or begrudgingly gave second-best efforts as he served in Potiphar’s house, he might have remained a slave or a prisoner his entire life.  He would never have become second-in-command to Pharaoh, overseeing Egypt and ultimately saving the nation from devastating famine.

Egypt may not have survived as a nation without Joseph.

Joseph’s father, Jacob, and his ten brothers and their families—the entire nation of Israel—may also have starved as the famine reached their land.

At least two nations depended on Joseph’s daily faithfulness to the tasks at hand.

Paul wrote:

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).

and

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”
(1 Corinthians 10:31)

This is how we bring glory to God.  It’s in the making of a Valentine’s card and the packing of a lunch.  It’s in the shuffling of the wet laundry from washer to dryer.  It’s in the standing at the stove to prepare a meal.

It’s you at your desk.  It’s you in the classroom.  It’s you teaching Sunday School.  It’s you on your knees.  This is what brings Him glory.

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

Shout! A Little Bit Louder Now: Part I

She didn’t believe I could hear her.  At the very least, I wasn’t paying attention and most certainly didn’t understand.

I was multitasking.  My two-year-old sat on my lap while I played the piano and sang at worship team practice.  For the most part, she sat patient and still during each of the songs.  Every few minutes, she gave in to temptation and touched a piano key or two.  Mostly, though, she simply sat and watched.

But then she began very quietly whispering in my face, “Paci.  I want paci.”

I didn’t have her pacifier and wasn’t sure where it was.  Besides that, I was pounding out chords on the piano and singing harmony all while whispering back to her, “Wait one minute.  I’ll find it in a moment.”

Since I didn’t immediately pop a pacifier into her mouth, she decided that I hadn’t heard her.  So, she said it louder.  And again, even louder.  “Paci!  I want paci!!”

Still singing, still playing the piano, I looked her in the eye and said, “I know what you want.  I’ll look in a minute.”

This was not acceptable to her.

At this point, she did the one thing a two-year-old who wants her pacifier could possibly do to make herself heard over all the music.  She grabbed my microphone with her hands, placed her mouth right up to it, and said in her loudest announcer voice (who knew two-year-olds possessed such a thing?): “Paci.  I want paci.”

That was an attention-grabber.

Have you ever felt like you needed a microphone to broadcast your prayers to heaven?
That God wasn’t aware of you, couldn’t hear you, wasn’t paying attention, and didn’t understand what you were going through?
That there was so much ambient noise, He couldn’t possibly hear the cries of your heart?

If anyone had reason to feel overlooked, ignored, unheard and unnoticed, it was the Israelite nation as they sweated and groaned their way through hundreds of years of slavery in Egypt.

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

More important than the fact that they were crying out, though, is the fact that God was listening—even before they realized He was paying attention.

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).

I love how the Message breaks this thought 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.

Oh, sometimes we believe pieces of God’s character hold true.  God may hear us pray, but He surely forgets His promises to us.

Or maybe He is faithful to keep His promises  . . . but only when He is looking in our direction.  Otherwise, we escape His notice.

Or maybe He hears our prayers and sees our situation, but doesn’t understand how desperate it really is and how hopeless we really are.

Yet, God’s character is no piecemeal buffet.  It’s not changeable or uncertain.  It’s not full of holes from the pieces proved false over time.

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.

His response to the cries of the enslaved nation was to call Moses to be their deliverer.  Remember, though, that He had already placed every part of this plan into action over 40 years before.

He had rescued Moses from the murderous rampage of Pharaoh, who had every Hebrew baby boy killed at birth.

He had trained Moses as a prince of Egypt, schooled him in all of the sciences and rhetoric a leader of a nation might need.

He had watched over Moses as a refugee in the wilderness for decades.

And now, he called Moses up to active duty and sent him back to Egypt with a message for the hard-hearted Pharaoh, “Let my people go.”

God had been active for years before Israel ever saw the answer to their cries.

Just as the Psalmist wrote: “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether” (Psalm 139:4, ESV).  Yes, the Lord hears our cries before they ever form on our lips and He knows our needs before we ever kneel before Him.

Because we know He hears, remembers, sees and understands, we can also declare with King David:

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).

God’s love for us and compassion for His people is all the microphone we need to broadcast our cries to heaven and to receive salvation from His mighty hand.

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