An invitation to the table

My daughter says her friends call her the “Snack Queen.”

She always has snacks, she tells me.  Everyday, she’s handing out granola bars, breakfast bars, pretzels and mini-muffins.

I tell her that’s what my friend calls me:  “The Snack Queen.”  How can we have the same nickname?

So, she accepts  a downgrade.  “I’m the Snack Princess then.”

We laugh about it and I think the title fits.  After all, the Snack Princess has snacks with her to share because The Snack Queen gives them to her.

I like to pack little snacks wherever I go.  Little ones can sit through a lot if they have a cup of goldfish, and life seems a little less tragic to a tired three-year-old when they have fruit snacks to ease the pain of sharing or missing naptime.

Long days of errands and waiting rooms are so much easier with Cheerios.

Maybe I come by this honestly because Jesus seemed to serve up a lot of snacks, too.

In fact, Jesus perpetually invited those around Him to fellowship over food.  He invited them to feast.

Jesus began his ministry with the wedding party at Cana and went on his way, eating with sinners and tax collectors, having dinner at Matthew’s house and Peter’s house, Zaccheus’s house and in Bethany with Mary and Martha.

He multiplied lunches into picnic spreads that fed thousands and then served the disciples the bread and the wine on the night He was betrayed.

After His resurrection, He  cooked up breakfast over a fire by the side of the sea to feed the hungry disciples who had been out fishing.

I love this about Jesus, how He meets us right there in the nitty gritty of life, the eating and drinking and sleeping.  He doesn’t preach at us to be more spiritual or act like none of these physical realities around us are necessary or even good.

Other philosophies told people to deny the material world.  It didn’t exist.

Jesus told His followers to come, sit, and eat, not because the physical reality is better  or more important, but because it is part of living with Him.

He entered right in to humanity and broke down the dividing line–the spiritual, the physical.  It can be both and it can be good.

Our Jesus, who laid out feasts for  His followers and who told stories over meals, shows us this:

  • He PROVIDES:

He provides for our physical needs, handing out fish and loaves to  a crowd that had nothing.  But He does more.  He handed the disciples the Passover bread and the wine in the cup and He told them to remember.  This was His body.  This was His blood.

Jesus provides not just for physical needs, but for our deepest, desperate spiritual need for  a Savior, satisfying the greatest hunger we will ever have with the Bread of Life Himself.

  • WE’re welcomed in

There is a place at the table for us and He welcomes us in.  Pharisees and tax collectors, sinners and religious scribes all dined with Jesus. He is a God who invites.

That means the invitation is there for us to accept or decline, not just for a feast here and now, but for the marriage feast we can share with Him in heaven if we’ve followed Him as our Savior.

The angel declares:

Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9 ESV).

  • HE GIVES US REASON TO  CELEBRATE

Because we are so blessed, because we as Jesus-followers anticipate this great heavenly feast, we celebrate!  We raise the roof with our joy!

We should become people of invitation,  because we’ve also been invited.  We welcome, because we have been welcomed.

Jesus gave His very own self for us so that we could be saved and that is cause for rejoicing indeed!

Isaiah describes the wonderful sight:

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.  Isaiah 25:6-8

This will be the ultimate joy, not just individual salvation, but redemption for this whole fallen physical world.

All that has been broken and destroyed by sin will be restored and made new. It will be made right as He lays out the table with the marriage feast, and we who believe Him and follow Him and love Him join Him at the table.

How our hearts long for home

Way back in September, my son screamed and kicked as I carried him back into the house after his sisters climbed onto the big yellow school bus.

He still struggled some mornings well into the spring,  especially after spring break.

This morning, partway through June, he once again stomped around the house with his chin tucked down to his chest and his arms criss-crossed after the girls walked out the door.

All this morning I tried to explain summer break to him, painting it as vividly as I could.  This is the very last day in the school  year.  The girls will get to be with us more and we’ll  have adventures together and time at home with each other.

But he still grumped around for at least 30 minutes because that didn’t make sense to him.  The “Promised Land” of summer was closer than he ever realized, but still too far away to be real.

I  sympathize with him.  I know what it’s like to long for the promise fulfilled and to be oh so close, but not quite there yet.

On Monday, I  walked through our soon-to-be new house and signed off saying it’s fixed up the way we want.

Then I drove back home to our current house, dug out yet another item I had already packed in a box,  and continued the waiting for word of our closing date.

So, longing for what’s right around the corner but not being able to fully relax and celebrate?  I’m right there with you, son.

This insatiable longing for what is to come makes me wonder, though, why I don’t ache more often for “home.”

All of us should be longing for heaven.  It should be a deep stirring within us because absolutely nothing we achieve or receive on this planet will fill up that gnawing need for eternity with Jesus.

Before He died, Jesus comforted His disciples with these words:

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also (John 14:1-3 ESV).

Our heart’s truest desire should be this: to be with Christ in that place He’s prepared for us.

We can live like Abraham, who was willing to  abide in tents because “he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, who designer and builder is God”  (Hebrews 11:10 ESV).

He didn’t need a palace, a mansion, or a luxury condo.  Instead, he was satisfied with a tent because he had heaven in mind.

And those other ancestors of faith looked forward also.  The Bible says, “They desire a better country, that is,  a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:15).

Isn’t this what we desire, too?

When we  hear the news yet again:

Divorce.   Abuse.  Neglect.  Death.  Cancer.   Pain.  Injustice.  Starvation and famine.  Poverty.

Don’t we ache with the way this doesn’t fit?  It’s not right?  This isn’t God’s best?

And that’s when we remember to cry out:  Come, Lord Jesus!  We long for you so!

We long for heaven.  This yearning for the eternal is deep within us and it should drive who we are.

It should stir us to PATIENCE with the now when God asks us to wait because we keep looking forward to His promises fulfilled.

It stir us to  ACT.  Stand up for what is right.  Pursue righteousness.  Offer mercy.  Live justly.  Because the Kingdom of God is  something we can live now in anticipation of perfection in heaven.

Eternity doesn’t begin for Christians after we die.  Eternity begins the moment we accept Christ as Lord.  I’m already living in my “forever with the Lord” and that means pursuing Jesus’s presence here and now.

And it should stir us to PRAY:  To come before Him with hearts crushed and broken by sin and evil.  We seek the hope that only Jesus can bring: the assurance that this isn’t all  there is.

He is indeed preparing a place for us.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4 ESV).

“This world is not my home; I’m just a-passing through.”

The Grandest Invitation Ever

Revelation 19I’m guessing I was in middle school.

Really, there’s not much I remember about why I was there or when I was there or even who was with me.  I think it was probably a band field trip up to Pennsylvania for a music competition.

But here’s what I do remember, walking into a large open room surrounded by windows and seeing table after table covered in crisp, bleached white tablecloths, each one set with an elaborate place-setting that included multiple forks and spoons.

I’m just a teenage-ish girl away from home with a bunch of other middle schoolers about to eat at a place far nicer than our normal class trip stops at McDonald’s or Wendy’s.

Even now, I’m the kind of girl who eats at restaurants where kids can get their drinks in styrofoam cups with lids and straws.

(Okay, maybe I can get my drink in that styrofoam cup).

This place was an intimidating beast of a dining room with significant glassware and cloth napkins.

What was I doing there?

I grew up in a home where we learned table manners, so I knew how to put my napkin on my lap and not lean on the table with my elbows.

But, I’ll still never forget that initial feeling of walking into such a fancy place and thinking, “I get to eat here? There’s not some back room for middle school girls from the suburbs?”

Maybe you’ve never felt out of place or like a small and insignificant girl feeling a little overwhelmed and a lot like you don’t belong there.

But I sure have.

I’ve felt uncomfortable and unworthy.

I’ve felt humbled and speechless and afraid to make one wrong move because maybe they’ll figure out the truth: that I’m an imposter who doesn’t deserve to be here.

So, as I was studying the book of Ruth and reading Kelly Minter’s book, I just wished so desperately I could pour myself a cup of tea and this amazing author could pour herself a cup of coffee and we could chat because Kelly got ‘it.’

She got everything about how it feels to be an imposter welcomed to a table.

Ruth 2:14 says:

And at mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over.

Up to this point in the book of Ruth, the author has made a huge, whopping, big deal about the fact that Ruth is a foreign woman. Even worse, she’s a Moabite foreign woman.

She didn’t even deserve to glean in the fields of Boaz and certainly wasn’t worthy of anyone’s notice, especially not someone as wealthy and powerful as Boaz.

Yet, after months of watching Ruth’s hard work and seeing her faithful care for her mother-in-law, Boaz invites her to the table with his employees and blesses her with abundance.

She eats everything she could eat and still had leftovers.

Immediately, I thought of how much this sounded like Mephibosheth, the crippled son of Jonathan whom King David invited to share the king’s table night after night.

(Kelly Minter thought the same thing.  I’m telling you, we were totally clicking that day!)

Mephibosheth was the grandson of King Saul.  When David became king, everyone expected him to kill anyone left alive in Saul’s family.

Instead, David seeks out Mephibosheth and longs to show him kindness.

And, crippled as he was, Jonathan’s son couldn’t even get to the king’s table on his own.

He would have to be carried.

Kelly Minter writes,

I believe we all deeply long to be invited ‘to the table.’ It represents all things that speak belonging, acceptance, and the honor of being chosen. It is a picture of intimacy, conversation, nourishment, and safety (Ruth, p. 76).

You and I, as unbelievable as it may seem, are invited to a table of abundance.

Revelation 19:9 says:

Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb (ESV).

How blessed indeed are we as believers to receive this invitation?  Christ Himself spreads out a feast and asks us to come to the table.

It’s an invitation we don’t deserve, not on our own merit or strength anyway.

We’re like Ruth—foreigners.  We’re the lowly and the poor.  We’re the outcasts and the outsiders.

Like Mephibosheth, we’re crippled and broken and we can’t even make it to the table all on our own.

We need Jesus.

He covers us with His righteousness.  He dresses us in the pure robes of His forgiveness.

And, He bids us come and eat.

“Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory” (Revelation 19:7 ESV). 

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.

 

Christmas Devotionals: God With Us

I remember thinking that I would have done the same thing.

When some friends and I visited the National Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC this summer, we began by picking up a tiny booklet that allowed us to follow the story of someone who lived during that time.

My booklet told the story of a survivor.

My friend’s booklet, though, told about a mom with a young daughter.  When they stepped off the train car at the concentration camp, the guards separated them into two lines, the children pushed apart from their moms.  The women were considered fit for labor.  The kids, though, considered a burden without benefit, were immediately sent to the gas chambers.

The mom in my friend’s booklet refused to leave her daughter’s side.  She must have clung desperately to that little hand and I imagined her saying, “Don’t be afraid.  Mommy’s with you,” even as they walked the slow walk to death.

I would want to be there, too, for all the frightening things my children faced.  I would have wanted to stay in the same line.

People have asked me repeatedly how I’m doing following the school shooting in the news this past week.  What can I say but I can’t imagine my children facing terror without me…

And this world is a terrifying place at times.  Last week, I drove my minivan out of the school parking lot and watched as another mom squeezed her fourth grade son before they got into their car.  When a lunatic gunman rampages in an elementary school, we all cry, we all lose our words, we all shake our head, we all hold our own children just a little tighter and remember to be oh so grateful that night.

We all fear.  I do it, too.  After the news headlines, I want so much to retreat with my kids to a secluded cabin in the woods, my pitiful attempt to protect them from the madness of sin in this world.

That’s the truth of it all, that we live on a sin-scarred planet and while there are hints of beauty here and there is mercy and grace, there is also pain and sorrow.  So, what hope do we have?  How can we wake day after day, not in defeat, resignation or anxiety, but with the joy of the Lord and the peace of salvation?

The gospel message is all about hope for the hopeless, light in the darkness, joy in sorrow and peace in turmoil.  It’s for those hopeless enough to feel like one more day alive is too much to bear.  It’s for those of us watching the clock at night, too worried about bills and our kids, our marriages, conflicts with family, or problems at work to sleep in peace.  It’s even for a worrier like me, anxious over my daughter’s birthday parties and the plans for a church Christmas cantata.

It’s for the daily troubles that we turn into crises and for the life-and-death struggles we sometimes face.

It’s the reminder that God came here to be with us so we wouldn’t be alone and He will not leave our side.

That’s the hope we have.  Not us alone in a crazy, mixed-up, broken world.  Not us alone facing bills and divorce, depression or stress.

Emmanuel.  God with us.GodWithUs1 copy

As it says in Isaiah “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

That wasn’t just God’s plan for our past.  It’s been His passion from the beginning of Creation—to be with us.  It was His driving desire all those years of patiently planning for our salvation through Christ’s coming, His death, His resurrection.

It’s the great passion of God’s heart even now.  In the book of Revelation, we are told that when the battle is over and Christ establishes His forever kingdom here, God will say:

“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4).

This is the hope we have every single day and it’s the hope we have for eternity.  God never leaves us to face the darkness or the anxiety alone, never the tough times, never the fear-filled moments.

He chose to be with us so we could choose to be with Him.

“Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

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 © 2012 Heather King

I Want More

I wanted to walk.

I needed to do other things.

In the 40 minutes between the “Amen” at the end of prayer group and the moment I had to pick up my little one from preschool, I should have been reading, prepping, writing, practicing, answering and completing.

I did, after all, have a to-do list to follow!  Things to check off!  Tasks to accomplish!

Still, I wanted to walk.

It was a warm day, the kind of slightly humid warm of a morning before an afternoon storm.  The clouds hadn’t yet blocked the sun and the cooling wind cut through the sticky heat, carrying scents of fall.

It was lovely.

So, down the Main Street of our town I strolled, wearing ballet flats instead of walking shoes—a reminder of the whimsicality of the moment.

I passed houses with mums dotting the gardens and azaleas in final bloom along the path and business with window displays of colored leaves and pumpkins.

At first, I thought about that dreaded list, the tasks I was leaving undone.  I was problem-solving and planning and mentally re-arranging my day.

But then I noticed the sound of the breeze, how the wind tossing about the leaves in the trees sang a constant hum.

And I saw the acorns scattered along the path and piled into the grass, the wind’s gift to squirrels looking for easy pickings.

And I watched as the clouds didn’t just mosey almost imperceptibly across the sky.  No, they were running and dancing past my eyes, pushed along by the breeze.

My walk was about finding more.

But those times never last forever.  I too quickly returned to the schedule and the to-do list, still wishing for more of something undefinable, indescribable, and impossible to cram into a word from a dictionary.

We talk a lot about what it means to desire more in life.

We say we’ve all been designed with a God-shaped hole.  While we try to fill that void with stuff and with sin, relationships and success, it’s only God who can ever satisfy.  Everything else results in a bottomless pit of emptiness.

That’s true.

And we talk about what it means as Christians to long for more.

How we need to put aside the busyness of religion and pursue relationship with Jesus.  How we must shun the sin that prevents intimacy with God.  And until He’s fully Lord of our lives and we’re walking with Him closely, not just day by day, but moment by moment, we’ll always feel poured out and never filled.

That’s true, too.

We sang it in worship this Sunday morning, “All of You is more than enough for all of me, for every thirst and every need.  You satisfy me with Your love.”

So, what’s wrong with me?  Why, after all of that, can I still feel the longing?

Not for more money or possessions, fame or success, love or attention.

For more Jesus.

So often our typical lessons on this issue follow the same trite pattern.

You want more.
You get rid of sin.
You draw closer to God.
You feel better.
Amen.

Like that’s as far as it goes.

Is God enough for us, enough to fully satisfy the deepest, most cavernous longing of our heart and souls?

Yes, He absolutely is.

Do sin and busyness choke us and keep us from being satisfied in Christ?

Yes, they absolutely do.

But even then, don’t you feel it–the insatiable groaning in your soul for something more than we can ever find in the here and now of life on earth?

C.S. Lewis wrote:

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world” (Mere Christianity)

This incessant longing, even in the moments of greatest intimacy with Christ, even on quiet walks with Jesus on lovely fall days, doesn’t mean God isn’t enough.

It just means that we were:

“made for eternity, for glory, and as long as your feet are here on this earth, you will experience a glory ache that only heaven can fully satisfy”  (Sharon Jaynes, A Sudden Glory: God’s Lavish Response to Your Ache for Something More, p. 192).

God designed us not for this life, but for the ever after life with Him.  Ecclesiastes tells us: “He has also set eternity in the human heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

When we see Jesus face to face and the physical realities of this world, the death and sin about us, the crushing grind of the daily, when all that is gone and it’s just our Savior and us and it’s forever . . . then we will be satisfied, fully drenched and totally filled.

Until then, we bring our longing for more to Jesus and let Him whisper to us about heaven and of what awaits us there.

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

VBS Lessons: No Matter What Happens

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.

Tonight at Sky VBS! (Group Publishing), we’re learning: No Matter What Happens…Trust God!

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“I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love”
Romans 8:38

There are times when I take prayer requests at the close of a meeting almost reluctantly, not because I don‘t care or because I don‘t want to pray.  It’s just that the requests seem so big and I feel the heaviness of them.

That perpetual litany of need, of cancer; mystery illnesses; the death of babies, husbands–and marriages; lost jobs and shattered finances seems like darkness with light, pain without hope.

I feel an affinity for the disciples in the three dark days between the cross and the resurrection, a silent understanding of their pain.  In “Valleys Fill First,” Caedmon’s Call sang: “It’s like that long Saturday between your death and the rising day, when no one wrote a word and wondered is this the end.”

Yes, that was the terror of looking at the cross and standing at a grave and thinking it was all over.

Days after riding through the streets of Jerusalem cheered by the crowd, Jesus had been captured, put on trial, crucified, and shut up in an impenetrable tomb, leaving the disciples overwhelmed, confused, and without hope.  They questioned everything they had seen, heard, and believed about Jesus just days before.

Then, they had confessed Him as Messiah.
Now, their Messiah was dead.

Then, they had seen Him raise Lazarus and others from the dead.
Now, His own death seemed unconquerable.

They had been catapulted into darkness and all of God’s promises and even their personal testimonies were called into question.

In the dark places, we too forget.  Surrounded by pain and despair, we allow circumstances to determine our view of God.  The physical “reality” of death, sickness, financial insecurity, and broken relationships tells us God isn’t loving, God won’t provide, God isn’t at work on our behalf.

When faced with tough circumstances, David also asked God some tough questions: “Will the Lord reject forever?  Will He never show His favor again?  Has His unfailing love vanished forever?  Has His promise failed for all time?  Has God forgotten to be merciful?  Has He in anger withheld His compassion?”  (Psalm 77:7-9, NIV).

Ultimately, though, David fought against these doubts by returning to what He knew was truth: “I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.  I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.” (Psalm 77:11-12, NIV). 

In the same way, we remember who our God is.  No matter what happens, we trust God.

Because He is a Creator, who can bring forth something altogether new out of nothingness.

Because He has Resurrection Power, the ability to take what is utterly dead and bring new life.

Christ’s resurrection gave the disciples new hope, real hope, true absolute belief and confirmation that their faith was more than a fairy tale, whim, emotional crutch or delusion.

So often, we use “hope” to mean little more than “good luck” or “best wishes.”  We give a friend a hug and say, “I hope you have a good day” or pat them on the back and say, “I hope you get that job you want” or “I hope your treatments work.”

We might as well be calling “heads” as we toss a coin.

Instead, because of Christ’s resurrection we have real hope for eternity.  We can have full, confident assurance in what Titus 2:13 calls “the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (NIV).  

Because of the Resurrection, we also have hope in the present.  After all, nothing is too big for a God who has power over life and death.  Jesus proved that no matter how bleak our physical reality looks and how much our five senses tell us God is not in control, He is still Lord and He can do all things.

Fortunately, our hope is in His strength and not our own.  It’s too much for us to carry around the weight of our problems and our dead circumstances.  We’re not creators. We don’t have resurrection power.  A world that relies solely on us is a hopeless place indeed.

Yet, no matter how dark our circumstances, even when we are in the closed tomb with every sign of death, we can have hope in Christ.

God, who conquered death and the grave, is working on your behalf in the here and now and also in preparation for our eternity with Him.

Instead of struggling to handle things on our own, we need to do something that is sometimes far more difficult–yield.  Cry out to Him that this weight is more than you can handle, allow Him to carry the load, and have renewed hope in God’s ability to care for you no matter how insurmountable the circumstances appear.

Would you like to hear the Caedmon’s Call song, Valleys Fill First?  Click here to follow the link or play it directly 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.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

God, Are You Crying?

“In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them.
In his love and mercy he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old”

(Isaiah 63:9).

It was my third pregnancy and I sat across from my midwife at my 37-week check-up.  “I don’t think the baby has turned,” I told her.  “I think she’s still breach.”

I saw her face change from “easy-breezy check-up” to “let’s investigate this issue”.  She expertly prodded my massive pregnant belly with her hands and then popped the baby up on the ultrasound machine to be sure.  Breach baby.  Thirty-seven weeks.

Maybe the doctor will turn her, I thought?  Maybe she’ll turn herself (I hoped)?  Anything sounded good if I could avoid a C-section.

She said, “I’ll call you.  I need to tell the doctor what’s going on, but I’d start preparing for surgery.”

I trusted her.  During both of my other pregnancies, she had cared for me frequently.  She was a strikingly lovely woman, an inside-out kind of beauty, so open and full of joy.  Her hair was just beginning to grow back into small bouncy curls after a fight with breast cancer years before and it was so like her to pour herself out for others even during chemo treatments and cancer recovery.

Just as she promised, she called me later that day.  She treated me like I was the only patient in the world, taking more than 20 minutes to tell me how serious the baby’s position was because she was sitting on her umbilical cord.  How turning the baby could kill her and if I went into labor on my own, she’d probably suffocate.

C-section it was.

But she gave me great reassurance, how good the doctor was, how she had seen him work and knew he would take good care of me and I would heal well.  “Don’t be afraid,” she said.

That was the last time I talked to her.

The doctor delivered my baby via C-section and he was expert and wonderful and my daughter was healthy and beautiful and safe.  When I returned for my check-up weeks later, they told me that my midwife’s breast cancer had returned and she was starting treatments again.

Any time I had an appointment at the office over the last 3 years, I asked about her.  She popped into my head periodically, and I prayed for her and we prayed in my small group, as well.

She passed away this weekend.

It’s a part of the human condition on this broken planet to grieve.  I am sad for her struggle, for years and years of fighting, for losing the battle to breast cancer, for her pain, for those who worked with her, for her dear friends, and most of all for her family and her two children who watched their mother fight and then die.

This world of sorrow isn’t a place of God’s design.  It’s the mess mankind made through disobedience and sin, ushering in death.  One day, we have the opportunity to see what God’s perfect design is really like.  Heaven is the ideal place, where death, crying, pain, and disease have no place because sin has no place.

But here we are, facing sorrows in the here and now because good people die, people of faith hurt, babies don’t make it, children are abused.

When Jesus stood outside of Lazarus’s tomb, he was surrounded by mourners in the midst of their own loss.  Martha was weeping.  Mary was weeping.  The entire crowd was weeping.

My commentary tells me they weren’t just sniffling quietly into their tissues in the good old Western style.  They were “wailing” (klaiontas).

Seeing their distress, Jesus “was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled . . . Jesus wept” (John 11:33, 35).

The crowd took it as a sign of Jesus’s own grief over losing a great friend and said, “See how he loved him!”

But is that why Jesus cried on the edge of Lazarus’s tomb?  He wasn’t wailing in the same way they were; he was quietly shedding tears (edakrysen).john11

Anyway, what was there for him to mourn?  He knew he could raise Lazarus from the dead.  In fact, Jesus was just seconds away from doing just that and watching Lazarus stumble out of the tomb still wrapped up in his grave clothes.

It couldn’t have been his own grief.

It had to be the sadness at the sorrow of others.  That’s why he was “deeply moved” and “greatly troubled,” not when he knew Lazarus was dead or when Mary and Martha confronted him over it, but when he heard “her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping” (John 11:33).

He felt sorrow over their sorrow, sadness over their sadness, and compassion because they experienced death, loss, the grave, pain, and sickness.

In the same way, when Jesus saw a widow following behind the coffin of her only son, “He had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep'”  (Luke 7:13) before touching her son’s body and raising him from the dead.

This is the Savior we serve, who saw the sorrow of death, who faced it Himself, and who comforts us when life is hard, when loved ones die, when we grieve the loss of people, the loss of hope, and the loss of dreams.

Even though I know He doesn’t always intervene with miracles, resurrecting in the places we grieve, it’s somehow helpful to know He isn’t ignoring us either.  Jesus isn’t cold-hearted, looking down stone-faced and unmoved by our sorrow.

Instead, when we’re hurting, He’s moved by compassion for us and ministering to us with His Spirit.  He’s comforting those who mourn (Matthew 5:4).

I use the Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament Edition, edited by John Walvoord and Roy Zuck.

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

Take Two: Kaleidoscope Moment: An Eternal Perspective

 

Friends, tomorrow is the seventh anniversary of my dad’s death, so today I’m going to share with you my post about his passing from last year’s anniversary. I hope it’s a blessing to you!

Kaleidoscope Moment 2: An Eternal Perspective

Posted on March 29, 2011

 

On this day six years ago, my dad died of malignant melanoma.  I miss him, but I’m okay.

Mostly I miss him in unexpected moments throughout the year.  Like when I hear Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition (his favorite) or some jazz music.  Or when I visit the firehouse with my daughter on a field trip (he was a firefighter).  When I see a really good drummer (my dad was the best) or watch the military band concerts on evenings in the summer (he was an Army musician).

I miss him when we look through pictures and my daughters ask me all about him.  I’m sad because the last year of his life, he was so sick and really didn’t look the way I remember him best.  Those pictures are strange distortions of someone I knew and loved.

I miss him, but I’m okay.

His death was one of those kaleidoscope moments for me.  God took my perspective with the patterns I was used to seeing, and shifted it a little.  He showed me something beautiful.

Up until that moment, I had believed in heaven.  I heard the stories in Sunday School and saw the pictures in my Beginner’s Bible as a kid.  We sang songs at church about heaven and I believed what I sang.

But, when my dad died, heaven was suddenly real.  Not some hazy and nebulous concept we teach at church, but a real place where my dad now lived.  The outer shell that we buried in that casket was most definitely not him anymore.  Suddenly, when I envisioned what heaven would be like, I personally knew someone who was there–a face in the crowd that was waiting expectantly for me to join him.

My mom chose this verse for my dad’s funeral bulletin:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, NIV).

For the first time, God taught me how to have an eternal perspective.

I had a friend in college whose mother had a degenerative disease and was ever so slowly worsening.  It was difficult and devastating, but I have never in my life met anyone whose eyes were more firmly fixed on heaven than my friend.  She saw heaven as the soon-to-be home for her mom—a place where her mom would be healed and whole and hurting no longer.  She would talk about heaven in casual conversation and she didn’t care about earthly possessions, worldly success, or what other people thought of her.  Instead, her eyes were fixed on the unseen and the eternal.

I forget sometimes to keep an eternal perspective and then God nudges my heart and holds the kaleidoscope back up for me to see the pattern of beauty He created in the light of eternal hope.

I get angry about something stupid and forget that little petty annoyances mean nothing in the end.  I worry and fret about the small details of my life and forget that in the grand scheme of things, they really don’t matter. I long for a bigger home or at least new carpeting and forget that this world really isn’t my home and what I have here isn’t going to last.

Chris Tiegreen wrote:

When your feet are planted in heaven, you can quit chasing status in this world.  You can live with a godly sense of abandon because you aren’t attached to possessions or even your own life.  You can take risks, although nothing God calls us to do is really risky by eternal definitions.  You can follow Him without fear.

The other day I took my daughters to a festival we have in our town.  We toured the booths, saw some skits, watched the parade and then headed home.  When she got to the car and realized we weren’t paying $5 per child for a 2-minute pony ride, my daughter bawled.  She cried most of the way home, saying, “You don’t understand me or what I like and what is important to me.  You never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give me the things I want.  I’m not going to eat or clean my room or do anything at all until you take me back to ride the horses.”

We arrived home and she sat in time-out.  I checked my emails and other messages and found an updated post for the little girl named Kate McRae that I’ve been praying for.  She’s seven years old.  She has metastatic brain cancer.

My daughter climbed into my lap, face still a little red from tears, and asked me about the little girl whose picture was now on my computer screen.  I told her all about Kate.  How she’ll be losing her hair because of the treatments she has to have.  How she has to take medicine that makes her terribly sick so she can’t eat.  How she can’t be with her brother and sister and can’t go to school.  How she has to live far from home and stay in a hospital.  How her body is weakened by the radiation treatments to her brain.

Pony rides didn’t seem so important anymore.  God turned the kaleidoscope and changed my daughter’s heart by revealing a new perspective, an eternal one.

Paul wrote:

Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body (Philippians 3:17-21, NIV).

How would your life change if you lived as a citizen of heaven in the here and now of earth?

Would you be more bold in your faith?  Invest more time in worship and prayer?  Build into your relationships more?  Whine less about the things you have or don’t have?  Abandon the pursuit of earthly status in order to gain heavenly reward?  Spend less time worrying about the things you can’t control?  Love people more and be willing to overlook more of their faults?  Be more thankful?  Enjoy the little blessings in life?

So much of my attitude about life, so many of my everyday reactions are tainted because I lose that eternal perspective.  That’s why I need reminders like today.  Reminders that “this world is not my home; I’m just passing through.  My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.”

*************************************************************************************************************

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

Does This Make Me Look Fat?

My middle daughter never ceases to remind me that “it’s not fair” that her oldest sister gets more new clothes than she does.

The truth is, though, that I usually do search the racks for at least one outfit or top or pair of shoes for each of my girls, including the ones whose wardrobe is primarily made up of hand-me-downs.

So, as I hunted about town for bargains on cute warm weather clothes for my seven-year-old, I rejoiced at finding a treasure for my five-year-old, as well.

It was purple, one of her favorite colors.
It was a sweatshirt, and she prefers play-clothes to dresses and fanciness.
It was made by L.L. Bean, so it was fashionable and high quality and something I probably couldn’t afford if I hadn’t found it at a kids’ consignment shop.

We had a winner!

I carried it home with excitement, knowing for certain that she’d love it and feel special because I thought of her and not just her older sister.

At first, her reaction lived up to my expectation.  For me?  Wow, thanks mom!  Purple? I love purple! 

Then she tried it on.  And then she promptly took it off.

“It makes me look fat,” she said.

I’m sorry.  What did she just say?

I took some training once that told me not to be reactionary, to just take anything children say calmly and not respond with hysteria.

I failed.  I reacted.  Big.

What can I say?  My five-year-old just announced that she thought she looked fat in a sweatshirt.

Now, before anyone starts blaming this on me, let me just say that I’m very careful not to complain about my weight, outfits, hatred of diets and exercise, need to look skinny, or discomfort with shorts in front of my daughters.

She didn’t get this from me, but she got it from somewhere.  It simply cannot be innate for a five-year-old child to worry about her weight or how heavy she looks in a sweatshirt.

So, after lecturing her on the fact that she’s beautiful, perfectly healthy, in no way fat, and how that isn’t the most important thing anyway .  . . . and continuing this lecture long after I knew she had stopped listening . . . I still struggled.

It made me wonder how this skinny child who wears pull tabs, safety pins and belts to keep her clothes on could ever think she was fat?

Yet, how have I —how have any of us—twisted and distorted our perspective so much that we see ourselves with equally faulty vision?

We think we are perfect.  We think we are failures.  We think we are better than others.  We think we are the worst at everything.  We think we are ugly.  We think we are unusable.  We think we are tainted, soiled, dirty, unwanted, unlovable, stupid, foolish, embarrassing, hopeless . . .

Unfortunately, we’re confined to a funhouse mirror version of reality on this planet and it’s a fight to see clearly in a world that perpetually distorts truth.

It’s the media, our family, our friends, and our enemies. It’s the twisted definition of success.  It’s the times we were abused.  It’s the hurtful words we never get over.  It’s pride.

Yet, Paul gives us hope when he wrote: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12 ESV).

It’s part of the promise of heaven!  We’ll be forever free from the lies and distortions and all of the untruths that clouded our perspective of the world, other people, and ourselves.

We’ll see truth.  We’ll see it perfectly.

Still, as difficult as it might be, Paul challenges us not just to accept the lies this world forces on us with a complacent shrug of the shoulders as we await heaven’s perspective.  He tells us:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you (Romans 12:2-3).

This is a call to action.  Fight now against the pattern of this world!  Press in to God and ask Him to renew your mind.  “Think of yourself with sober judgment.”  That means, see the honest truth.  Don’t think you’re better than you are.  And don’t think you’re worst either.  Know how God has made you, gifted you, and designed you and be happy with that.

And what is it that we are?  John tells us exactly:

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:1-3).

We’re not just children of God, we’re also in progress to perfection. You’re beautiful now, created and loved by God, and yet I can’t wait to see you in heaven, when He’s perfected you and you’ve become all that He intended you to be.

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

Kaleidoscope Moment 2: An Eternal Perspective

On this day six years ago, my dad died of malignant melanoma.  I miss him, but I’m okay.

Mostly I miss him in unexpected moments throughout the year.  Like when I hear Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition (his favorite) or some jazz music.  Or when I visit the firehouse with my daughter on a field trip (he was a firefighter).  When I see a really good drummer (my dad was the best) or watch the military band concerts on evenings in the summer (he was an Army musician).

I miss him when we look through pictures and my daughters ask me all about him.  I’m sad because the last year of his life, he was so sick and really didn’t look the way I remember him best.  Those pictures are strange distortions of someone I knew and loved.

I miss him, but I’m okay.

His death was one of those kaleidoscope moments for me.  God took my perspective with the patterns I was used to seeing, and shifted it a little.  He showed me something beautiful.

Up until that moment, I had believed in heaven.  I heard the stories in Sunday School and saw the pictures in my Beginner’s Bible as a kid.  We sang songs at church about heaven and I believed what I sang.

But, when my dad died, heaven was suddenly real.  Not some hazy and nebulous concept we teach at church, but a real place where my dad now lived.  The outer shell that we buried in that casket was most definitely not him anymore.  Suddenly, when I envisioned what heaven would be like, I personally knew someone who was there–a face in the crowd that was waiting expectantly for me to join him.

My mom chose this verse for my dad’s funeral bulletin:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, NIV).

For the first time, God taught me how to have an eternal perspective.  I had a friend in college whose mother had a degenerative disease and was ever so slowly worsening.  It was difficult and devastating, but I have never in my life met anyone whose eyes were more firmly fixed on heaven than my friend.  She saw heaven as the soon-to-be home for her mom—a place where her mom would be healed and whole and hurting no longer.  She would talk about heaven in casual conversation and she didn’t care about earthly possessions, worldly success, or what other people thought of her.  Instead, her eyes were fixed on the unseen and the eternal.

I forget sometimes to keep an eternal perspective and then God nudges my heart and holds the kaleidoscope back up for me to see the pattern of beauty He created in the light of eternal hope.

I get angry about something stupid and forget that little petty annoyances mean nothing in the end.  I worry and fret about the small details of my life and forget that in the grand scheme of things, they really don’t matter. I long for a bigger home or at least new carpeting and forget that this world really isn’t my home and what I have here isn’t going to last.

Chris Tiegreen wrote:

When your feet are planted in heaven, you can quit chasing status in this world.  You can live with a godly sense of abandon because you aren’t attached to possessions or even your own life.  You can take risks, although nothing God calls us to do is really risky by eternal definitions.  You can follow Him without fear.

The other day I took my daughters to a festival we have in our town.  We toured the booths, saw some skits, watched the parade and then headed home.  When she got to the car and realized we weren’t paying $5 per child for a 2-minute pony ride, my daughter bawled.  She cried most of the way home, saying, “You don’t understand me or what I like and what is important to me.  You never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give me the things I want.  I’m not going to eat or clean my room or do anything at all until you take me back to ride the horses.”

We arrived home and she sat in time-out.  I checked my emails and other messages and found an updated post for the little girl named Kate McRae that I’ve been praying for.  She’s seven years old.  She has metastatic brain cancer.

My daughter climbed into my lap, face still a little red from tears, and asked me about the little girl whose picture was now on my computer screen.  I told her all about Kate.  How she’ll be losing her hair because of the treatments she has to have.  How she has to take medicine that makes her terribly sick so she can’t eat.  How she can’t be with her brother and sister and can’t go to school.  How she has to live far from home and stay in a hospital.  How her body is weakened by the radiation treatments to her brain.

Pony rides didn’t seem so important anymore.  God turned the kaleidoscope and changed my daughter’s heart by revealing a new perspective, an eternal one.

Paul wrote:

Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body (Philippians 3:17-21, NIV).

How would your life change if you lived as a citizen of heaven in the here and now of earth?

Would you be more bold in your faith?  Invest more time in worship and prayer?  Build into your relationships more?  Whine less about the things you have or don’t have?  Abandon the pursuit of earthly status in order to gain heavenly reward?  Spend less time worrying about the things you can’t control?  Love people more and be willing to overlook more of their faults?  Be more thankful?  Enjoy the little blessings in life?

So much of my attitude about life, so many of my everyday reactions are tainted because I lose that eternal perspective.  That’s why I need reminders like today.  Reminders that “this world is not my home; I’m just passing through.  My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.”

*************************************************************************************************************

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