Finding a place at the well

We’re preparing for company and my son loves company.

He is a host extraordinaire.  At the first mention of upcoming visitors, he  cleans up his room and then grabs Clorox wipes,  the broom,  and wood polish and heads for the kitchen.

He’s five.

But he’s a five-year-old who loves to entertain guests, and he has mastered some basic essentials of hospitality:  create a clean space, set out games, and provide snacks.  What more could you need?

When I told him last  night that we’d be having company this weekend, I should have been prepared for an early morning wake-up from this boy who needed to  clean his room right this second.

Yes,  it’s 7:30 in the morning and we’re still getting kids ready for school and yes, mom would like some time with a cup of tea first.  But his room was messy and the company was imminent (as in arriving in the next 48 hours).  He does not want to  be unprepared for his guests.

There’s a beautiful moment in Scripture when Abraham shows a similar attentive hospitality. Genesis 18 says three strangers came by and that:

The LORD appeared to Abraham at the oaks of Mamre (Genesis 18:1 CSB).

Not just a guest, an unexpected divine guest.

I’d probably lock the door for a few minutes and toss dirty dishes into the oven, clean clothes back  into the dryer, and paper piles into closets before actually welcoming a surprise stranger.

But Abraham is so gracious,  so inviting.  He brings water for their feet and leads them to  a place of rest under the shade of a tree.  He asks Sarah to  bake bread,  prepares a meal , and then serves them a picnic feast of fine foods.

He makes the most of this moment with the Lord.  He is hospitable and attentive.  He is not rushed or stressed about all he isn’t getting done.

The Lord simply appeared.  And Abraham invited Him in.

What  needs to change in me so I can be more  hospitable to the Holy Spirit?  More attentive and considerate of His presence?  More responsive and inviting?  More willing to  sit and fellowship with Him?

I consider the challenge of this because sometimes you sit down for a quiet time, and the Lord feels….quiet.  You read.  You pray.  You copy down the verse.   And then you are done.

But other days you sit down for some time with Jesus and He invites you to linger because His presence is so strong. So you have to choose.  Do we rush Him along or settle in at His  feet?

Abraham chose to welcome the visitor.

His son Isaac did even more.

Yes, Abraham had set up camp and the LORD came to Him, arriving without invitation or planning or pursuit on Abraham’s part

But Isaac purposely set out to dwell in the Lord’s presence, making not just a one-time visit, but a long-term decision to abide..

Genesis says:

After the death of Abraham, God blessed Isaac his son. And Isaac settled at Beer-lahai-roi (Genesis 25:11 ESV).

Beer-lahai-roi–that ‘s “the well of him that liveth and seeth me.”  That’s where God called out to  Hagar in the wilderness and He rescued her son by providing this same well to  quench Ishmael’s thirst.  Hagar called Him the “God who sees me” and the “One who looks after me. “Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi” (Genesis 16:14 ESV).

Hagar’s time there was temporary, but  Spurgeon writes:

“Isaac….settled there and made the well of the living and all-seeing God his constant source of supply….Let us too learn to live in the presence of the living God….Happy is the person who lives at the well, with abundant and constant supplies near at hand” (Morning and Evening).

Of all the places Isaac could have  brought his family and made his home, he chooses this holy place, this sacred site, and he settles in.

Could this be me?

Could I be like Abraham, ready, yielded, excited even by the  Lord’s visits?  Am I prepared? Am I ready to clean rooms,  make meals, and rest under a shade tree all in God’s presence simply because He showed up and I want t o be with Him?

But could I also be like Isaac, seeking out this same presence day by day?   Choosing to settle near the well of God’s supply, dwelling with Him and in Him, knowing that this well of His presence will not and will never run dry?

And that’s the best part.  On days when Isaac felt  weary, dry, worn out, stretched thin, stressed, or just had the blahs, he could go  to  the well and drink deeply from the well, dipping the cool  water over  and over if needed, all because he lived day in and day out by the well of His presence.

Bible Verses about God’s Presence

  • Exodus 33:14 NASB
    And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”
  • Joshua 1:9 NASB
    Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
  • Psalm 16:11 NASB
    You will make known to me the path of life;
    In Your presence is fullness of joy;
    In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
  • Psalm 23:4 NASB
    Even though I walk through the [d]valley of the shadow of death,
    I fear no evil, for You are with me;
  • Psalm 27:4 NASB
    One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek:
    That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
    To behold the beauty of the Lord
    And to meditate in His temple.
  • Psalm 41:12 NASB
    As for me, You uphold me in my integrity,
    And You set me in Your presence forever.
  • Psalm 51:10-11 NASB
    Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
    11 Do not cast me away from Your presence
    And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
  • Psalm 73:28 NASB
    But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;
    I have made the Lord God my refuge,
    That I may tell of all Your works.
  • Psalm 100:2 ESV
      Serve the Lord with gladness!
        Come into his presence with singing!
  • Psalm 139:7-10 NASB
    Where can I go from Your Spirit?
    Or where can I flee from Your presence?
    If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
    If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
    If I take the wings of the dawn,
    If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
    10 Even there Your hand will lead me,
    And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
  • Psalm 140:13 NASB
    Surely the righteous will give thanks to Your name;
    The upright will dwell in Your presence.
  • Isaiah 57:15 NASB
    For thus says the high and exalted One
    Who [a]lives forever, whose name is Holy,
    “I dwell on a high and holy place,
    And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit
    In order to revive the spirit of the lowly
    And to revive the heart of the contrite.
  • Jeremiah 29:13 NASB
    You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
  • Matthew 18:20 NASB
    For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.
  • Matthew 28:20b NASB
    and lo, I am with you ]always, even to the end of the age.”
  • John 1:14 NASB
    And the Word became flesh, and [a]dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of [b]the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
  • John 14:16 NASB
    I will ask the Father, and He will give you another [a]Helper, that He may be with you forever
  • John 14:23 NASB
    Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.
  • Hebrews 4:16 NASB
    Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
  • Hebrews 10:19-22 NASB
    Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a [h]sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
  • Hebrews 13:5 NASB
    Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,”
  • James 4:8 NASB
     Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
  • Revelation 21:3 NASB
     And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them[

Loneliness and Darkness and how to Find Light

We have a nighttime wanderer at our house, a little traveler who visits others while they sleep.

My son has always slept in his own room and in his own bed, but after we moved into a new house something shifted in him.  He doesn’t want to be alone at night.

And he absolutely, positively does NOT want to sleep in his own bed in his own room.

We’ve set up a little futon for him as a consolation.  At first,  he insisted that his “little bed” (as he calls  it) remain in the upstairs hallway.  That was close enough to family traffic to keep his little heart happy.

I’ve been slowly trying to move him into his room, though, because school starting means his sisters are up  and moving and loud really early in the morning.  He’d sleep better (and longer!) in his own bedroom.

So, I’ve managed to get his “little bed” into his bedroom, but he wants it as close to the door as possible.

Then, after we’ve all snoozed for a few hours, he drags his blanket behind him and finds another place to sleep.

He climbs into bed with a sister.  He curls up and falls back to sleep under their bedroom window.  He tucks himself in  on a trundle bed.

We tell him each night that he needs to sleep in his own bed and he nods in agreement, but around 3 or 4 a.m. I suppose his heart’s desire overcomes all that.  In the morning, we find out whose room he decided to share for the night.

My girls never really  experienced that need.  All three of them shared a room until a few months ago so when they were  preschoolers, they didn’t have to sleep by themselves.

Being alone, after all, is hard.

I have sympathy for my little guy.  He loves his family.  He knows he feels more secure if he is near someone else.  So, he pursues that with determination, relentlessly returning night after night to  the same pattern, dragging his Star Wars blanket behind him.

Maybe we all need that assurance once in a while, that we’re not alone, that we’re safe, that we’re loved, especially in the dark times.

And Scripture does that for us.  The Psalmist gives us this beautiful reminder:

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you (Psalm 139:11-12 ESV).

Night and day are the same to our God.  Darkness, light:  Makes no difference.  Even the darkness is not dark to Him.

That means that even in our loneliest, scariest, darkest, most anxious moments, whether we’re lying in our beds or standing in our kitchens or driving in our cars or sitting at a desk, God brings the Light of His Presence right where we are.

No darkness is too dark for  Him to cut through.

Even if we feel forgotten, unloved, overlooked, or abandoned, we’re promised that God doesn’t ever fall asleep on the job.  Psalm 121 says:

He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

He never turns His head away or gets distracted.  He’s not so busy solving the crises of the world to  hear us and see us when we call to Him.

So, call to Him.

In his devotional, Morning and Evening, Charles Spurgeon wrote:

You may fear that the Lord has passed you by, but it is not so: he who counts the stars, and calls them by their names, is in no danger of forgetting his own children. He knows your case as thoroughly as if you were the only creature he ever made, or the only saint he ever loved. Approach him and be at peace.

In the night, in the times you can’t see, in the places where you feel lonely, in the moments when you’re so exhausted and overwhelmed that you just feel hopelessly lost, call to Him.

Drag your blanket behind you if you need to, and seek Him out.  It’s His very presence that you need to be your safe place, your refuge and hiding place, the security you need to help you sleep in peace and rest without fear.

Here’s the good news:  He is closer than you may think or feel.

Angela Thomas wrote:

When you are hurting, your head says that God is far away, but Jesus says, in fact, that God is closer than ever (A Beautiful Offering)

Drop the stuff to take a picture of the butterfly (and maybe climb a tree)

She saw him there first, sunning himself on those purple flowers, showing off his yellow and black wings.

We hadn’t taken even two steps out of my front door when she shouted and rushed right over.

Two steps out the door?  I was still shifting the weight of the baby carrier against my knee with the diaper bag slung over my shoulder and a bag of library books weighing down my other hand with my keys between my teeth.10170989_696172120430028_1187591291338040542_n

And she’s spotting butterflies.

We stopped.  We emptied our hands so we could take pictures and enjoy one spring butterfly in the warmth of the sun.

But if she hadn’t been there, would I have even seen?  Would I have paced right by that flower bed from front door to minivan in 0.3 seconds?

And, if after a month of looking for beauty I’m still so apt to miss it, then what exactly am I missing?

I go back to the beginning, back to what I know.

God is both Beautiful and the Creator of Beauty.  The Psalmist said:

From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth (Psalm 50:2).

So when I seek out the beauty of what He has made, I worship Him, I enter into His presence, and I can glimpse those hints of eternal perfection—the scent of Eden in the here and now.

David wanted this, too.  He wanted to seek out the presence of God and if he could have just one thing, it’d be this:

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).

I want His presence, His beauty, to be my ‘one thing,’ my passionate pursuit, my eyes-on-the-prize, single-minded, totally focused, never-wavering-for-a-moment ‘thing.’

So why then do I walk out of my front door and need my eight-year-old daughter to see that butterfly on those purple flowers?image by Rudy Bagozzi;

Because my hands are full?

Because my mind is busy?

Because my heart is heavy?

Yes and yes and sometimes (but not always).

What if there’s something more?  I have to at least ask the question.

Isaiah said:

 “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you” (Isaiah 59:2).

What if something blinds us to His face?  What if we’re trying to see and trying to see, but it’s just impossible?

Don’t you love Zaccheus, though?  This tax collector tried to see Jesus and tried to see Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd.

He could have given up, called it a day, headed on home, took a raincheck on a visit to the Messiah.

But no.  He hiked up his robe and scrambled up a tree.

I’m no tree climber.  Never really was.  But now?  A 30-something mom of 4 kids?  What a mess of clumsiness I’d be grabbing branches and hoping they’d hold my weight.

Yet, what if Jesus stopped and looked at that tree and called Zaccheus down because it was just that crazy?  He knew that this sin-filled tax collector was the one man in the crowd who was willing to make an utter fool of himself and do any wild bit of craziness just to see Jesus.

Face-to-face with so much grace, standing right there in Jesus’ presence, Zacchaeus could do nothing less than repent and change (Luke 19).

In Acts it says,

Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19 NASB).

If I want the refreshing of His presence, then it starts with the repenting and the returning.

So, what am I willing to do to see Him?  Skin my knees on tree bark and climb on up there?

And when I’m there at His feet, is there anything I need to lay down and be willing to change?

A bad attitude?

Bitterness?

Self-pity?

Selfishness and Self-focus?

Pride?

Jealousy?

Disobedience?

Unforgiveness?

It’s not legalism or getting all tangled up in reminders about how sinful I am.

It’s about seeing the beauty of His face when we discover the beauty of His grace.

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’?

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

 

How to dominate the smartphone before it dominates me

Apparently it’s a modern psychological condition, Nomophobia:  The fear of being without your smartphone.

I have the opposite.cellphone

I’m no Luddite, no hater of all things technological or modern, but I have an overwhelming fear of owning a smart phone.

I just don’t want to be connected all the time. Sometimes I want to leave my house and not be available.

I don’t want to fall prey to those stereotypical smartphone pitfalls and gain convenience but lose the beauty of real relationships.

So for years, I’ve ignored a steady stream of phone upgrade offers from my cell phone company and cheerfully toted around my non-fabulous, plain-old dinosaur of a cell phone.

Most of the time, I forgot to have it charged anyway.  Or I couldn’t find it in my bag.  Or I left it at home.  Or I had turned it on silent and forgot to turn it back up.

I didn’t know how to check the voicemail on the thing and didn’t text back when someone texted me.

The truth is, my introverted soul dislikes phones in general.  Something about talking on the phone is an overwhelming social experience for me.

What do you say on the phone?  How do you know when the other person wants to talk so that you don’t also start talking and end up interrupting them?  What about awkward pauses?

And my least favorite….you call someone and they answer, “Hello…” and that’s it.  So you wonder: Am I talking to the right person?  Or did I dial the wrong number?  Will I launch into a conversation and find that I’m spilling my guts to a stranger?

Then, when you’ve completed the phone conversation, how do you say goodbye without getting on that farewell carousel that just goes round and round until someone finally hangs up?

Okay, see you later.

Bye.

Bye.

Have a good day.

Okay, see ya.

Yeah, bye.

I will do just about anything to avoid talking on the phone.  I will write endless e-mail messages back and forth with someone, send notes via Facebook, or wait to chat face-to-face.

I will even put on a stamp, walk to the mailbox and mail a letter first.20932501_s

Clearly a smartphone and I don’t seem look a good match for each other, this ostentatious, life-controlling, telephoning device and me, the hater of all things descended from Alexander Graham Bell’s initial great invention.

But last week, the cell phone company made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

So I stopped hyperventilating long enough to call them up and say, this free iPhone yada yada yada (I don’t even know what smartphones are called)..is that for real?

The guy says, “Let’s figure out how much data you might use in a month…..what do you want to do with your new smartphone?”

I think of all the things I DON’T want to do with this potential technology tyrant, but I just tell him what I do want.

I get lost.  Like, a lot.  Pretty much every time I drive in my car, I get lost.  I need to be able to look up directions and find out how to get un-lost.

Oh, and, I’d like to be able to look up phone numbers for places while I’m out and about.

Yup, that’s what I want.

I find it strangely funny…or perhaps absolutely perfect….that during the month of March when I’m choosing to Unplug, a new smartphone is on its way to my front door.

After all, there are choices I need to make now to dominate this device before it dominates me.

Maybe you do, too?

  1. I will not fall prey to the tyranny of the urgent.  Phone calls can be returned.  Text messages can wait for answers.  Facebook and Twitter and that endless stream of Internet information doesn’t need to be accessed all the time.
  2. I will not ignore the people I’m with to interact with the people who aren’t with me.
  3. I will remember social graces—make eye contact with my cashiers, thank the person at the desk, chat in a friendly way with the folks waiting in lines, listen to those I’m with.
  4. I will know when to turn it off and set it aside.  I don’t want to be distracted and I don’t want to distract the people teaching me, talking to me, or performing on a stage.
  5. I will use the tool (the maps!!  the GPS!!  the Bible apps!) and not be dominated by the toy (Candy Crush, I have your number).  

The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out (Proverbs 18:15 NIV).

 So, tell me all about it….What do you love about your smart phone?  What are your favorite apps?  How do you keep nomophobia at bay and stay in control of the smartphone?  Fill this novice in on all of the details.

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 ‘Unplug’?

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

VBS for Grown-Ups: Trusting God Helps Us

All week long I’m thinking about the Bible points for our Vacation Bible School and what they mean for adults.  This week will be a mix of some old and some new as I share these lessons.

Today at Kingdom Rock VBS (Group Publishing), we’re learning: Trusting God Help Us…Stand Strong!kingdom-rock-logo-hi-res

“Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock” Isaiah 26:4
Adapted from “Present and Accounted For,” published 10/31/2012

“Where are you going, Mom?”

My three-year-old has a radar system that rings alarms and sets off alerts if there is a possibility that I am going out…and leaving her at home.

That morning, she had caught me slipping on my socks.  I reassured her, though, “Just putting on my socks because my feet are cold, baby girl.  I’m not going out.”

“You’re staying here?”
“Yes.”
“You’re not leaving?”
“No, sweetie. Mommy’s staying with you today.”

Snuggling in close to me, she pressed her cheek against mine and cooed, “Mommy, I stay with you.”

Of course, she can’t, not all the time, not forever, not every minute and each second of day after day after day.  But for this moment, here I was snuggling with her and remaining present.

We sing it occasionally at church, declaring, “You are My Shield, My strength, My Portion, Deliverer, My Shelter, Strong Tower, My very present help in time of need.”

This is our way of singing Psalm 46 back to God:

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
  though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging (Psalm 46:1-3). 

Normally, I sing this song imagining God as my Tower, my Shelter in the most fearsome storms.

But what good is a tower-of-brick if it isn’t nearby when you need to hide?  And what is the point of a refuge that is too far away to reach in times of distress?

It is God’s constant, faithful presence that makes Him effective as our Refuge and our Strength, our Defense and our Deliverer.

That is why “we will not fear,” not during storm or raging sea, or mountains crumbling or news reports of flooding and fire and disaster.

Because He is present.  Not just here in this moment and maybe leaving us later in the care of others while He slips out for a meeting or relaxes with friends or fills a cart with groceries at the local store.

We needn’t trip to His feet in alarm when He pulls on His socks or takes His jacket down from the pegs in the closet.

He is always, ever, constantly, faithfully, never-changing, perpetually, every second of every day present with us.

This means He didn’t close His eyes, turn His head, blink, snooze, or simply grow too distracted to care when the mountains crumbled and the waters roared.

No, our God doesn’t promise us a world without frightful shaking and uncertainty.  It’s a sin-plagued planet, aching and groaning for the perfection of eternity.  Hurting and death and sickness and tears are part of life here.cross

Jesus Himself struggled with the pain and the death, earth’s inheritance, as He prayed alone in the garden before being hauled off for trial, persecution, and the cross.  Sacrifice didn’t come easy for Him just because He was God here in human flesh.

He wrestled with His emotions, with His human weaknesses and the temptation laid at His feet to just abandon us all to eternity in hell.  And who could blame Him?  How could we ever be worthy of God’s great sacrifice?

But God was with Him in the garden, and Jesus trusted that God would give Him the courage and strength to declare, “It is finished” after walking in and out of the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

And God promises to be with us, to be the strength and shelter we need for whatever rages outside or inside our lives.

Moses came down from Mount Sinai and plead with God simply for this presence.  Days on that holy mountain, shining with reflected glory, and Moses still longed for more of God.

The Lord Himself promised:  “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14)

His presence.  Our rest.  Without Him, turmoil and worrying and stress.

Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:15-16).

Like Moses, we pray, knowing that without God’s presence, we are a mess and a disaster, and we are alone and lost, no different than those who don’t know Him at all.

His presence is what sets us apart.  That’s what gives us hope for each new day and peace.  That’s what others should notice about us–Christ in us, the hope and glory.

Today is a day to praise God for His presence, to thank Him for being eternally faithful, the Rock we can rely on, our Refuge in times of trouble, a Fortress of safety in the storms we face.

Trusting God in that way helps us stand strong.

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

Present and Accounted For

“Where are you going, Mom?”

My three-year-old has a radar system that rings alarms and sets off alerts if there is a possibility that I am going out…and leaving her at home.

That morning, she had caught me slipping on my socks.  I reassured her, though, “Just putting on my socks because my feet are cold, baby girl.  I’m not going out.”

“You’re staying here?”
“Yes.”
“You’re not leaving?”
“No, sweetie. Mommy’s staying with you today.”

Seeing as how a hurricane raged off the coast of Virginia that morning, staying in seemed like a good idea.  We had stocked up water, canned food, and batteries and hunkered down until the storm passed.

She didn’t understand all that, though.  Snuggling in close to me, she pressed her cheek against mine and cooed, “Mommy, I stay with you.”

Of course, she can’t, not all the time, not forever, not every minute and each second of day after day after day.  But for this moment and surely in this storm, here I was snuggling with her and remaining present.

We sang it at church Sunday morning, leaving the weather reports and streaming satellite images about the approaching hurricane behind for a short time.  We gave praise, declaring, “You are My Shield, My strength, My Portion, Deliverer, My Shelter, Strong Tower, My very present help in time of need.”

This is our way of singing Psalm 46 back to God:

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
  though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging (Psalm 46:1-3). 

Normally, I sing this song imagining God as my Tower, my Shelter in the most fearsome storms.

But what good is a tower-of-brick if it isn’t nearby when you need to hide?  And what is the point of a refuge that is too far away to reach in times of distress?

It is God’s constant, faithful presence that makes Him effective as our Refuge and our Strength, our Defense and our Deliverer.

That is why “we will not fear,” not during storm or raging sea, or mountains crumbling or news reports of flooding and fire and disaster.

Because He is present.  Not just here in this moment and maybe leaving us later in the care of others while He slips out for a meeting or relaxes with friends or fills a cart with groceries at the local store.  We needn’t trip to His feet in alarm when He pulls on His socks or takes His jacket down from the pegs in the closet.

He is always, ever, constantly, faithfully, never-changing, perpetually, every second of every day present with us.

This means He didn’t close His eyes, turn His head, blink, snooze, or simply grow too distracted to care when the mountains crumbled and the waters roared.

No, our God doesn’t promise us a world without frightful shaking and uncertainty.  It’s a sin-plagued planet, aching and groaning for the perfection of eternity.  Hurting and death and sickness and tears are part of life here.

But He promises to be with us and be the strength and shelter we need for whatever rages outside.

Moses plead with God simply for this presence.  Days on that holy mountain, shining with reflected glory, and Moses still longed for more of God.

The Lord Himself promised:  “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14)

His presence.  Our rest.  Without Him, turmoil and worrying and stress.

Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:15-16).

Like Moses, we pray, knowing that without God’s presence, we are a mess and a disaster, and we are alone and lost, no different than those who don’t know Him at all.

His presence is what sets us apart.  That’s what gives us hope for each new day and peace and that’s what others should notice about us–Christ in us, the hope and glory.

Today is a day to praise God for His presence:

You Never Let Go (David Crowder* Band): “When clouds brought rain, And disaster came…When waters rose, And hope had flown.. Ever faithful, Ever true.  You I know.
You never let go

Made Me Glad (Hillsong): “He has delivered me from all fear; He has set my feet upon a rock. I will not be moved! I’ll say of the Lord, You are my Shield, my Strength, my Portion, Deliverer, my Shelter, Strong Tower, my very present help in time of need!”

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

Devotions from My Garden: Seed Identification

The Lord answered, “I will be with you”
Judges 6:16a

She stands under 3 feet tall, this baby girl of mine.  With one hand tossed up to her hip, she stomps her feet on the ground twice, three times perhaps for emphasis, and screams, “Never Again!!!” in a voice that commands attention, if not respect.  If she’s really upset, she might even engage in some finger wagging.

My husband and I stifle grins at the sight of her: two years old and she could command an army.

When she was born, my mother-in-law was away on a missions trip to an Indian reservation out in the Dakotas.  We made the call announcing our youngest daughter’s birth just in time to reach Grammy before she left for her missions work that day.

As any proud Grammy would, she shared the news with her roommate that baby Catherine had arrived.

Hearing the name we’d given our daughter, the woman declared, “Oh, a woman of authority.”

It’s something I’ve pondered as I watched my baby–so assured of her own mind—turn into a toddler—set on sharing her mind. I can see the hints of leadership, yes, even authority crammed into the body and soul of a toddler.  Tucking away memories, impressions, and glimpses at her developing character, I feel a little like Jesus’ momma, Mary, who treasured things up in her heart.

My Catherine reminds me so often of the seeds we planted in pots on our deck this year.  They appear so small and yet inside an explosive force lies dormant, ready to break out of its shell and grow and grow and grow . . . and hopefully produce much fruit.

Holding that ordinary seed in our hands, we can’t begin to imagine the potential for beauty and nourishment within once it receives proper care and tending.  The only hint we have of the future is the picture on the package and sometimes even then we’re surprised.

When we planted this year, we set aside one long planter for carrots and excitedly covered over about 20 seeds with 1/4 inch of dirt.  Within a few days, shoots of green appeared, but strangely enough, they didn’t look like carrots.  In fact, they looked identical to the radish sprouts now growing up in other pots.

I think perhaps my daughters got a little ambitious with the radish seeds and planted them in places I didn’t expect.

Sometimes we look at people or ourselves and see plain, brown, ordinary, small, and insignificant specks.  Mystery seeds.  If we’re particularly imaginative, we might even think we see the potential for carrots, only to learn later that God really designed us to be radishes.  Surprise!

Ultimately, God sees what we cannot.  He recognizes all our potential for growth.  He sees beyond our insufficiency and the trappings of our untrained immaturity and chooses circumstances, people, and training that will nurture, prune, and tend us into fruitful vines.

This is what God did for Gideon.  In a time when the nation of Israel was oppressed by the Midianites and foundering without a king or judge to lead them, God raised up a teenager to save his people.

Scripture tells us:

The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior. ”  (Judges 6:11-12).

Mighty Warrior?  Who could the Lord be talking about?  Surely not this youth doing chores for his dad!  We read later that Gideon destroyed his dad’s altars to the false gods, Baal and Asherah, so Gideon wasn’t even a child of a faithful and righteous man.

Even Gideon thought God meant someone else, answering, “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family”  (Judges 6:15).

He said, “I’m a nobody from a nothing family.  I’m no Mighty Warrior.  You’ve got the wrong guy.”

We may think he was right as Gideon puts God to the test repeatedly, asking for signs and reassurances of God’s command (Judges 6).  Then on the eve of the battle, Gideon still feels afraid and God offers him further comfort and confirmation by allowing Gideon to overhear the enemy and how assured they were of defeat (Judges 7).

In fact, even when the battle is over, won with only 300 Israelite soldiers against an overwhelming Midianite army, it still seems odd that God could call Gideon “Mighty Warrior.”   After all, there’s no question at all who was the Mighty One.  The battle was the Lord’s; Gideon was just yielded and usable.

The truth for Gideon and the truth for us is that God looks at us and sees beyond all of our failings and fears.  Not only that, but He’s also not limited by our skills and talents.  He doesn’t see the potential of what we can do on our own; He sees the potential of who we are with Him.

With God, Gideon was indeed a mighty warrior.  That’s why when Gideon asked how any of this would be possible, “The Lord answered, ‘I will be with you” (Judges 6:16).

That is the promise He has for us–His presence, His help, His guidance, His reassurance when we are afraid.  All He requires from us is trusting obedience and the willingness to embrace His plans and His designs for our future.

More Devotions From My Garden:

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, 04/21/2012

Hiding the Word:

We made it a late night for the sake of theater.  The girls and I, along with Grammy and Grampy, went to see the local community theater group perform Treasure Island.

I was nervous about the night since the show didn’t start until their bedtime, but my daughters were entranced by the sea shanty-singing, sword-slinging, parrot-toting pirates, who scaled the heights of the ship, leapt overboard, and shot at each other in an attempt to capture the treasure.

From the moment Billy Bones dropped his treasure chest onto the floor of the inn, the girls were intent on classifying the pirates into two types:  Good pirates and bad pirates.  I heard my middle girl loudly “whisper” (she doesn’t really know that whispering involves lowering the volume of your voice) several times at the beginning, “Is he good or bad?”

Long John Silver, in particular, puzzled them.  Was he good, the way he was nice to Jim Hawkins and saved his life?  Was he bad, the way he led the mutiny against Captain Smollet?  He killed some and protected others.

This one-legged renegade was a moral enigma to my daughters.  They couldn’t box him up and fit him in a nice ethical category, so we talked about him and life and right and wrong most of the way home from the play.

Sometimes we too are intent on shoving people into ill-fitting categories and assigning them superficial labels.  We think we “know” someone as soon as we decide they are good/bad, smart/dumb, nice/mean, right/wrong, funny/dull . . .

I’m so thankful that God knows us as more than just a number, a nameless face in the crowd, or little more than a resume of good or bad deeds.

I’m choosing to meditate on this for the week, the promise that God knows me truly and deeply—no matter how complicated I may be.  It’s also the assurance that He loves others in the same way and challenges me to take the time to know them and love them without labels, boxes, and categories.

You have searched me, LORD, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
   you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
   you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
   you, LORD, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
   and you lay your hand upon me (Psalm 139:1-5)

Weekend Rerun:

Where is the Whole World?
Originally posted on 07/22/2011

 

I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
Psalm 34:4

During my second pregnancy, I went happily to my 20-week ultrasound and learned we were having another girl (the joys of pink!) and that she was healthy and developing well.

Except she was small.  They said smaller than she should be and I’d need to go get a 3-D ultrasound at a specialized neonatal center.  But, not to worry, they were sure it was okay.  This was just to be safe.

One 3-D ultrasound later, the technician sent back the report.  She was healthy.  Good heart.  Good blood flow.  Organs just fine.  But she was small.  Too small.  It was probably okay, but just to be safe I had to go for weekly stress tests for the remainder of the pregnancy and some more ultrasounds.

Every stress test was fine.  She was moving (boy was she moving!) and she was growing, but not fast enough.  She was just too small.  But, no need to worry, they said, because she was probably just fine; it’s just that they needed to induce her a week early so they could figure out why she was so small (under 5 pounds they said) and help her grow outside the womb.

We packed a bag for the hospital and let the Pitocin get to work.  Induction was terrible; the worst of my three deliveries.  In the end, though, Lauren was born.  I didn’t have my glasses on.  I couldn’t see her.  Was she okay?  Was she too small?  Was she in danger or sick or worse?

My husband served as my eyes for me.  At first he said nothing; she was purple they told me later from the chord double-wrapped around her neck. But then she cried.  And my husband said, “She’s beautiful.  She’s perfect.”

The NICU pediatrician who had been on call to assist at the delivery of this at-risk baby peeked over the nurses’ shoulders and left the room without a word.  The nurse laid her on the scale.  She weighed 6 pounds 13 ounces, my one-week-early little one, too big for the preemie outfits we’d picked out for her.  God had brought her to us safe, healthy, and gorgeous and we praised Him, so tearfully thankful for His protection over our baby girl.

Between that first announcement that our baby was too small and the moment we saw her, we fought against fear.  My husband and I held hands and prayed for her each night.  We calmed our fears and shrugged off ultrasound results.  Then I’d sit at the next appointment and be told once again that she was just too small. All the anxiety we had kept at bay rushed in with renewed strength.

Someone asked me during that time, “You’re not freaked out about this, are you?”

I didn’t know.  Was I freaked out?  Was I okay?  It wasn’t the same from day to day or minute by minute.  I was fine.  I was scared.  I was trusting.  I was fearful.  I was relying on God.  I was unbelieving.

At that time, Tim Hughes was singing on the radio:
When all around is fading, and nothing seems to last
When each day is filled with sorrow
Still I know with all my heart
He’s got the whole world in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands
I fear no evil, for You are with me
Strong to deliver, mighty to save

The whole world is nestled in the safety of His hands.  My world that I saw every day.  The world of my unborn baby girl, whose somersaults I could only envision and whose face I couldn’t wait to see.  Yes, her world was in His hands, too, and so I had to trust her to His care.

Isaiah wrote: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

Held in His hands as I am, still there are so many reasons to tremble.

For bills and jobs and relationships, for school, health, my kids’ friendships, safety and their faith, for my daughter not getting lost, for school bus rides and mean girls, for conflict, for things I forgot to do, for the decisions I make as a mom and how often I mess it all up, for the future, for the unseen, for the nosebleed that I’ve blown up into a brain tumor, for what’s happening tomorrow and what’s happening ten years from now, for the divorces I’ve witnessed and how did it all happen anyway, for the things I said and the things I didn’t say.

But when I’ve lost my breath because of worry and fretted over a solution only to find no visible answer, nothing I can do, and no way to fix the problem or avert disaster, then I remember hope.

Oh yes, now I remember hope.

Fear says, “There is no way out of this.”
Hope says, “God is going to make a way.”

Fear tells me “You’ve messed this up so badly there’s nothing that can fix it.”
Hope says, “I have a Redeemer who can heal and restore even what is dead.”

Fear whispers, “What you can see is all there is and that’s not enough.”
Hope shouts, “The Lord created the universe with His words.  He can create something out of nothing.”

Fear argues, “You’ve been abandoned.  God doesn’t even care that you are under attack.”
Hope assures me, “You are held in His hand, carried through hardship by His open palm.”

This world, my life, the daily schedule, the care of my children, the bills and the doctor’s appointments, and all there is remains outside my control.  That’s why there is fear.  It’s ridiculous pride and foolish unbelief that makes me believe God can’t possibly care for me and that I could do better on my own.  So I worry because I’d like to control the uncontrollable.

Fear isn’t an enemy you defeat once and then mount on your wall like a trophy.  It’s a sneaky foe, inching it’s way into your life at the slightest provocation.  It creeps into your thoughts at night and asks to be your companion as 3:00 a.m. and then 4:00 ticks and tocks by on your nightstand alarm clock.

In the night as you rumple the covers with your constant turning, when the bill comes, when your child steps onto the school bus, when you sit in the doctor’s office, when the lawyer calls . . . remember hope.  It’s the ultimate weapon in this battle against fear.  We have hope because we’re in His hands and so is our whole world.  Our kids in His hands.  Our finances in His hands.  Our jobs, our marriages, our friendships, our ministries, our careers, our future—in His hands.

We say with the Psalmist, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4).

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