My perfect future

 

At least eight of them were going to live in big houses.

One of them wasn’t going to have a big house.  His house was going to be BIG.

They would compete in the Olympics, be world famous surgeons and vets and carpenters, play professional sports, write books, run businesses, and make a lot of money.

They would drive Jeeps or a Ford or a convertible.

They would all marry, have several children (whose names they already knew) and live incredibly happily ever after.

These were the futures my daughter and her fellow fifth graders described during their DARE graduation last year.

We parents in the crowd smiled and laughed and probably some of us cried.  What a wonderful, beautiful, sometimes humorous thing it is to hear eleven-year-olds dream.

My daughter jumped right in there, dreaming with the best of them about education, career, marriage, having kids, and making a difference in the lives of others.

Lovely thoughts, all of them.

But when they read her “My Future” paragraph at the graduation ceremony, I finally succumbed to the tears when I heard her concluding words: “My future is in God’s hands.”

Whatever happens…

Even when the plans don’t turn out the way she hoped or expected….

Even when life gets crazy or even just slightly uncertain…..

“MY FUTURE IS IN GOD’S HANDS.”

I take this to heart.  Shouldn’t we all?

My eleven-year-old self never planned or expected all that God has done and all that He has planned for me.  My life has twisted itself up into a thing of beauty that I never could have created on my own.

There were seasons I thought God was messing it all up.

He told me ‘no.’

He changed my direction.

He made me wait ‘forever.’

He carried me through valleys of darkness when I couldn’t see the next step right in front of my face.

Maybe now I already know the answers to the questions these kids were asking:  Where would I go to college? What would I study?  Who would I marry?  How many kids would I have?  Where would I live?  What would I do?

Yet, still there’s that constant compulsion to lay the future all out clean, perfect, organized, and bullet-pointed with measurable goals and a five-year-plan of how to make it all happen.

My own daughter’s wisdom brings me back.

Do I need to know all that?

Or do I need to just know this:  ‘My future is in God’s hands’?

I think of Joseph, the perpetual Old-Testament dreamer.

God gave him so much more than a fifth-grade perfect-life wish-list.  God gave him prophetic visions of his parents and brothers bowing down to him in homage and respect.

Then he was trapped in a pit while his brothers plotted to murder him.  He was sold to slave traders and carried off to Egypt.  He was falsely accused and thrown into prison.  He was forgotten and left to rot in the jail while others were freed.

It might have looked like one great big hopeless mess.  How could Joseph ever make those God-given visions work out?

The truth is he couldn’t.

And he didn’t need to.

HE JUST NEEDED TO KEEP LIVING, DAY AFTER DAY, MOMENT BY MOMENT, OBEDIENT TO GOD, TRUSTING THAT GOD WAS IN CHARGE OF HIS LIFE STORY.

Louie Giglio writes in his book The Comeback:

Maybe your dream is to go to school or get a degree or accomplish a certain task or find a certain spouse or start a business or move to a certain place or create a movement or carry the gospel to people who’ve never heard it before. Those may be great dreams, but there’s a bigger dream that overrides everything else: it’s that your life counts for the glory of God.

THIS IS THE CONSTANT DREAM WE CAN CLING TO AT ALL TIMES AND IN ALL SITUATIONS:  MAY OUR LIVES BRING GLORY TO GOD.

Yes, in the prison.

Yes, in slavery.

Yes, even when all the dreams come true.

Ultimately, Joseph told his brothers:

And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life (Genesis 45:5 ESV).

Joseph knew nothing happened just for his own benefit, personal comfort or ultimate happiness.

Everything he endured was so God could ‘preserve life.’

HIS LIFE WAS TUCKED INTO THE GRANDER STORY, THE GOD-STORY, THE STORY OF SALVATION.

That’s true for us, as well.

We can dream, plan, plot and strategize, but ultimately we return to trust.

WE TRUST THAT OUR LIVES CAN GLORIFY HIM. WE TRUST THAT HE HAS A GRAND, GOD-STORY FOR SALVATION, AND WE HAVE A PLACE WITHIN IT.

WE TRUST THAT OUR FUTURE IS IN HIS HANDS.

 

Originally published 1/15/2016

Green pastures don’t happen by chance

My son would like his Batman house back.

We’ve been packing in waves here in preparation for our move.

Several  months ago, I started putting books and toys into boxes that we wanted to keep, but didn’t need right away, and then we hauled all of that to a storage facility for safe-keeping.

Then, the weekend before we listed our house for sale, we made another storage blitz and that’s when we packed up his Batman playhouse.

This was no problem until the day he pulled down his superhero toys and  he had Batman and Robin and Green Lantern and Superman…..but no superhero lair to put them in.

I’ve tried to explain the process of moving to him and he understands bits and pieces of it, but when you’re three and you know you have a Batman house but your mom can’t pull it out for you to play with, that’s fairly tragic.

There’s one thing he knows for sure, though.

His Batman house will be at the new house for him, and he is holding onto that promise.

If we drive by the new house or stop in for an inspection, he reminds me, “My Batman house is at the new house.”  Right, mom?  Then I can play with it.”

Yes, baby, it will be there.  Not yet, but soon.

This moving is a journey of preparation, stages and stages of letting go and moving on.

It will all  be fresh and new and exciting, but it’s also an adjustment at times .

After all, he’s only known this one little house for his whole little life and he’s happy right here.

And he’s innocently unaware of most of the change on the horizon, just happily accepting the boxes stacking up and the repairs we’ve made.  Mostly, he simply trusts us and keeps holding on to the hope and the promise that he’ll be playing with his Batman house again soon.

And I admire that about him.

I take it to heart as a girl who chafes against change and holds onto the old and familiar with all her might.  I love how he sets his heart on hope, focuses his vision on the good, and trusts those who love him enough to lead him.

That should be me.

That should be us, trusting our Shepherd, the God who loves us so.

Not worrying over the journey or fretting over the unknown, but enjoying the beautiful unfolding of His perfect plans for us.

In Psalm 23, it says,

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.

I love to think about those green pastures and still waters, but I’ve never considered before how the shepherd prepares nourishment, rest, provision, and blessing for his sheep.

He doesn’t just meander along, stumbling upon some green grass periodically.

Oh, here’s a little place to rest.  Who knows when we’ll find such a place again!  Enjoy, sheep!

Instead, Phillip Keller, the author of A Shepard Looks at Psalm 23, writes:

Green pastures don’t happen by chance. They are a product of tremendous labor, time, and skill in land use. They were the result of clearing rough rocky land, of tearing out brush and roots and stumps, of deep plowing and careful soil preparation, of seeding and planting special grains and legume, or irrigating with water and husbanding with care the crops and forage that would feed the sheep.

The Shepherd plans and prepares the future for His sheep.

Max Lucado puts it this way:

“Hence, when David says, ‘He makes me to lie down in green pastures,’ he is saying, ‘My Shepherd makes me lie down in his finished work” (Safe in the Shepherd’s Arms).

Wherever we find ourselves,  God has prepared us for what we face….and prepared for us hope….and prepared for us calling….and prepared for us rest.  

He prepares these green pastures and He prepares “a table before me in the presence  of my enemies” (Psalm 23:5) because He knows there are times of rest and times of opposition.

He prepares good  works for us to do here on earth (Ephesians 2:10) and is even now preparing our eternal home (John 14:3).

Scripture says:

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.  Deut. 31:8 ESV

God does both.  He goes before us, preparing the way for us and preparing us for the way.

And He walks alongside us, never abandoning us along the way, always leading us to our home in Him where we can find rest in the work He’s finished.

 

 

Living In-Between, Part II

He had these red boots.

A missionary speaker at our church years ago told the story of being a boy growing up in Africa.  In the pile of shoes donated to the kids in his village, there was a pair of fabulous red boots and he loved them. They fit perfectly.  He felt like a super star when he wore them and he wore them everywhere.

Over time, he had to push a little harder to get his heel down in the boots.  His toes began to pinch a little and then curl to squeeze into the shoe.  Instead of choosing to go out and play with his brothers, he’d decline, knowing that walking and running would hurt his feet.  But he didn’t want to admit the boots were too small.  He loved them too much to stop wearing them.

In “Living In-Between, Part I,” I wrote about the first pitfall of our transition times in life.  We tend to run ahead of God.  We want to skip over the waiting time or the training period in order to get right to the good stuff of God fulfilling and completing His work in us.

The second pitfall, though, is no less dangerous.  It’s holding onto the past when God tells us to move on.  It’s squeezing ourselves into too-small red boots, making ourselves uncomfortable and hampering our service to God.

The past holds us hostage to shame.

The apostle Paul wrote:

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14).

If anyone understood how the shame of the past could imprison you, it was Paul, once a murderer and persecutor of Christians and now a follower of Christ.

He knew you couldn’t just “forget” what happened in the past, but that you had to constantly engage in “forgetting.” This process is ongoing because Satan is forever picking up the clumsy club of shame and beating us over the head with it.

“God can’t use you,” he says.  “You messed up.  Don’t you remember your sin?  Your mistakes?  How you’re impure and worthless?”

Paul also wrote that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).  We cling to that daily.  When Satan looms over us with shame, we banish him by purposefully forgetting what is behind and straining ahead to reach all that God’s grace has for us.

The past makes us comfortable with the known.

The missionary knew his red boots were fantastic, albeit ill-fitting. What if some new shoes didn’t measure up?

Some of us settle down so comfortably into the routines of life that we tremble at threats of change.  This is how the Pharisees felt as they were shaken from their roosts of power by an unexpected Savior.

Jesus announced:

“I am the bread of life.  Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.  This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:47-51).

He was offering people revolutionary sustenance—the Bread of eternal life.  They preferred to remember the manna in the wilderness. Not that manna was bad.  It was miraculous and sustaining and perfect provision from God at a necessary time.

Yet, manna was no more than a precursor of the ultimate heavenly provision—our Messiah and life-giver.

Are you choosing manna over the Bread of Life?  Have you declined what God is offering because you’re content with what He’s already given?

In A Year With Jesus, Eugene Peterson prayed, “I don’t want to live on the memory of old miracles, but experience fresh ones in faith.  Draw me into the fullness of this day’s grace in which you have new things to do in and through me” (p. 427).

Finally, the past reveals selfishness.

It was hard to do, but at last the little boy admitted the beautiful red boots didn’t fit him anymore.  What good were boots if you couldn’t wear them or walk with them? Reluctantly, he handed the boots down to his younger brother and stepped into some new shoes of his own.

And there’s the key for us.  How long had his brother been without the blessing of perfectly fantastic red boots all because his older brother couldn’t let them go?

Who are we hindering when we refuse to step down from ministries when God has told us to stop?  Who does He want to raise up, to train, to use, to call and to bless?

James wrote: ” But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17, NKJV).

Heavenly wisdom means we are willing to yield.  Sometimes that means we let others pass or we invite them into the steam of ministry traffic.  Sometimes it means slowing down and giving someone else a chance to jump in.

But, it depends on us to obey God peacefully, gently, with mercy and without hypocrisy when He tells us to stop hoarding the boots all to ourselves and to bless someone else with them instead.

We look forward to a new year full of new encounters with God.  Are you willing to go where He leads even if it means leaving some things behind?

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

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

For Your Name’s Sake

This morning, I filled my minivan up with gas and about choked on my bottled water when I saw the little rolling numbers climbing higher and higher.  I started imagining the what-if’s of our future like not being able to afford food for my children and my husband having to sleep at his office because we couldn’t afford the gas for him to commute.  Within a few seconds, I had my family out on the street with one pair of clothes each and no food.

So, I took one look at my total gas bill and marched inside the store and bought myself a caramel cream doughnut with chocolate frosting and a double chocolate milk.   I almost bought two doughnuts, but a little Holy Spirit self-control kicked in—thank goodness.

Many of the storms in our lives are simply the result of living in this sinful, messed up, broken world.  We can’t blame God for the crises we face.  It’s not God’s fault my gas bill each month is about half my mortgage.  Sometimes the storms we face are because we’ve sinned or have chosen to disobey God and now we’re facing the consequences.  Other times, Satan is at work, trying to discourage and defeat us with trial after trial.

Regardless of whether our difficulties are God-caused or God-allowed, we can trust that He’s always at work for our benefit and for His glory.

In the case of the disciples in Mark 6:45-52, just because they were in a storm, didn’t mean they were out of God’s will or that they had sinned.   It says, “Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida” (verse 45, NIV).  He intended for them to be out on that sea, facing the wind and waves.  Clearly, this particular storm served a purpose in their lives–two of the same purposes that God often has for our life storms.   He uses them to prepare us for our future and to show His glory.

Lessons for the Future

When the disciples faced their first storm on the sea in Mark 4:35-41, Jesus was in the boat with them the whole time, sleeping on a cushion in the stern.  At any time during the storm, they could reach over and wake Him up and that’s what they finally did.  The disciples exhausted their own resources and acknowledged that the storm was too much for them, so they “woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?'” (Mark 4:35-41).

But, this second storm in Mark 6:45-52 was different.  Jesus wasn’t physically in the boat with them.  He had stayed on the other shore and went off by Himself to pray.  So, when the storm got too much for the disciples this time, they couldn’t just do what they did before.   In this storm, they were physically alone.

Jesus uses this second storm to teach them that just because He wasn’t physically in the boat, doesn’t mean He was unaware of what they were facing or unable to save them.  This was a vital lesson for their future!  Every day brought them one step closer to the cross, to His resurrection and His ascension—to a time when they would have to live out everyday life without Jesus talking, walking and eating with them.  Without this lesson in this boat in the storm on the sea, the disciples wouldn’t have survived a single trial after Jesus left them.  They wouldn’t know how to withstand a storm without Jesus physically in their boat.

God doesn’t waste the experiences in our lives–the storms, the trials, the bad days, the annoyances, the interruptions.  All of it.  He can be at work in our lives, teaching us and growing our faith, transforming us to be more like Christ, comforting us so we can later comfort others, as long as we yield those moments to Him and willingly receive the lessons.

For His Glory

Not only can God use our every experience to teach and prepare us for the future, but He is also intentional about being glorified in our every circumstance.

In the case of the disciples, when Jesus walked across the water in the middle of the night and climbed into the boat with them, the storm ceased.  As you can imagine, the disciples “were completely amazed.”  I’d be amazed, too!  In the companion passage in Matthew 14:33, it says, “Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.'”

When God gives us too much to handle, it’s not so we feel defeated or broken or ashamed.  It’s not to humble us or make us fall.  God gives us too much so that we give everything to Him. Then, when He carries the burdens that force us to the ground, He is glorified.  People stand in amazement and see God in us and at work in our lives.  There is no question of whether “Heather did this amazing thing”—No, it can only be God.

That means that instead of praying for the miracles I think I need, I can tell God my problems and simply pray for Him to be glorified in every situation.  That’s not natural for an in-control, planning person like myself.  I am so tempted to pray for specific miracles when I go through tough times and tell the God of the Universe exactly how He can provide for my need.

Praise God that He shows me enough grace not to give me what I ask for!

I’ve slowly learned not to pray for the miracle I think I need, but to pray for God’s glory instead.  When David was surrounded by enemies and running for his life, he so often prayed for God to rescue him or save him for God’s glory and for the honor of God’s name.  In Psalm 31:3, he prayed, “For You are my rock and my fortress; Therefore, for Your name’s sake, Lead me and guide me.”

Whatever you are facing, you can trust God to know the perfect way to provide for you and to rescue you.  Give your problems to Him and ask Him, “Lord, be glorified in this situation.  Be amazing.  Be awesome.  For Your name’s sake, take me through this storm.  For the glory of Your name, rescue me.  Whatever brings You glory, Lord, that’s what I ask for.”

Today, I saw this kind of faith in a prayer from another family.  I don’t personally know the little girl, Kate McCrae, who is fighting metastatic brain cancer for the second time in her young life.  But, her story has touched my heart.  I pray for her all the time and I follow her family’s updates and prayer requests.  At the end of her post today, Kate’s mom wrote, “We continue to pray that Kate would be healed of this disease, and that Jesus would be glorified through our heartbreak.

What an example of faith for us.  Not many of us will face a crisis in this life as big as this family is facing and yet this hurting mom is willing to place everything in God’s hands and just ask that He be glorified.

Is my daily life too much for me to handle?  All the time.  Is Kate’s cancer too much for her family to handle?  It’s too much for any of us on this earth.  But absolutely nothing is too much for God, and so we hoist the burdens that are too heavy for our shoulders onto His back and let Him carry them and us as well—and then we give Him all the glory.

Please join me in praying for Kate McCrae as she begins radiation treatments for her cancer.  You can follow this link to learn more about her story.

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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