It’s A Miracle!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Two steps forward and two steps back (or so it seems)

This was an unfortunate setback.

A few weeks ago, my husband gently suggested that it may be time for a serious attempt at potty training my two-year-old.

Now, to understand how I felt about this I first have to tell you potty training my two older girls was no easy task.  In fact, it’s fair to say that I’ve never felt as much like a failure in my life as when I was pleading with a toddler just to sit on the potty chair.

I laid awake at night designing reward charts and incentive plans.
I prayed for help from Almighty God so that my kids would be ready for preschool.
I bought books, movies, stickers, M&Ms, toys, and more to bribe them into success.
I avoided all moms who proudly announced their genius 18-month old had been perfectly trained with absolutely no effort in all of a day.

But my husband is a good husband and I’m a good wife.  So, when he asked me to start potty training my toddler, I plunged into what I was sure would be months and months of misery, stress and clean-up.

I pulled out the trusty movie, Potty Power.  I explained underwear to my daughter.  Every 15 minutes, I picked her up and carried her to the bathroom.

And a miracle happened.  A real live, genuine miracle of God.

She figured it out.  She wanted to learn.  She graduated to underwear in a matter of days.  I bet God never had anyone thank Him so much for help potty training her child.

And then.

Then there was the setback.  One week of sickness kicked my baby girl back into Pull-Ups and made her absolutely terrified of a trip to the bathroom.  Now my sanity is loosely held together by a can of Resolve and a bottle of Febreze.

I was discouraged.  She was scared and confused.  We’re baby-stepping our way forward, hoping to regain lost ground.

Have you ever encountered a setback that left you dazed, uncertain, and full of fear?

Perhaps you stepped out in obedience to what you believed was God’s call, but circumstances shifted, obstacles arose, and you’re not reaching the goal.  Perhaps you’ve even begun to question whether you heard God clearly and made the right decision in the first place.

Sometimes God’s plan just doesn’t make sense to us.

For the Israelites leaving slavery in Egypt, the most logical route to the Promised Land was straight along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.  After a few battles with the Philistines, the Isrealites thought they’d march right into Canaan after no more than a month-long journey.

God had other plans.  Exodus 13:17 tells us: “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, ‘Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.'”

Sometimes God takes us the long way around for our own benefit.  In her book One in a Million, Prisicllar Shirer writes that “the wilderness is often safer than the alternative” (p 73).  God chose the wilderness for His people.  Maybe He’s chosen it for you, as well, for your protection and personal growth.

Even after the Israelites followed the pillars of cloud and fire in the direction God had chosen to take them, there were still setbacks.  In Exodus 14:2, God said, “Tell the people of Israel to turn back.”

Turn back?

God led them one way only to turn them around and march them off in a different direction?  Did it seem like God had momentarily lost His compass in the desert?

And yet, this turning back placed the Israelites on the banks of the Red Sea and the only way across now was through His miraculous deliverance.

He turned them around so that He could save them.

So, what do we do as we make confusing desert tracks in the wilderness in our efforts to follow God’s lead?

We could give up.  We could question our listening skills.  We could doubt God’s leadership.  We could stomp off and follow our own course.

Or we could remain focused on our goal and the passion God has placed in our hearts.  That’s the only way the Israelites made it to the Promised Land.  It’s the only way we’ll receive all that God has promised us.

It’s also the only way Nehemiah saw the walls of Jerusalem rebuilt.  Kelly Minter in her book Nehemiah: A Heart That Can Break, writes:

“After verbal assaults, physical threats, discouraged laborers, abuses of power and economic distress, Nehemiah never diverted his focus from the wall.  The process may have been slowed and altered as a result of enemies and wayward citizens, but the goal never changed.”

In fact, Nehemiah himself writes, “I also persevered in the work on this wall” (Nehemiah 5:16, ESV).

He continued to build despite threats, fear, confusion, discouragement, distractions and disappointments.  He continued to build despite setbacks.   He never stopped placing brick on top of brick on top of brick in obedience to God.

What has God asked you to build?  Choose today to place another brick on this wall instead of giving up because of obstacles and disappointments.  Choose to “persevere in the work on this wall.”

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

Working Together

Had you seen me that day, you would have thought I discovered hidden pirate treasure or the Lost City of Atlantis.

Instead, it was a small dark blue suitcase sitting outside a local thrift store.

I spotted it from my car and parked in record time.  Power walking over to the store front, I darted my eyes side to side to make sure no one else had also seen this fabulous find and was determined to race me for it.

Once my hand was on the handle, I quickly inspected it, tried out the zipper, decided it was the most perfect little suitcase ever manufactured and carried it inside where I handed the cashier $2 so I could take it home.

Finding that suitcase made my day and it’s not because I’m packing for an overnight trip.

No, it’s because a friend of mine has a passion and she invited others to join in a mission with her.  So now I feel personally commissioned to locate and obtain small suitcases in good condition and when I’m on a mission, look out world!

I’m not the only one hunting for these bags either.  Others are doing the same thing.  And to think, yard sale season hasn’t even begun yet!

You can read all about Andrea’s passion here at her blog.

In her time as a foster mom, Andrea’s had three little ones come to her family with their belongings in trash bags.  It turns out, that’s “normal” for foster children.  They are uprooted from the only home and family they know, sent to live with strangers, and the few items that they own–their most precious possessions—are toted along with them in a bag meant for garbage.

It’s pretty hard to imagine any child feeling special, loved, and secure with that as their “normal.”

So, Andrea wants to change that and she asked us to join with her.  Her goal is to collect enough suitcases so that each child who comes through our local fostering agency can toss the garbage bag where it belongs—in the trash can—and have the dignity of carrying their belongings in real luggage.  She calls it Suitcase of Love.

Here’s what excites me.  I just started Kelly Minter’s study on Nehemiah: A Heart That Can Break and it’s got Andrea’s project written all over it.  It’s God’s Word carried out in daily life.

Nehemiah had a passion, too.  After hearing from his brother about the ruinous state of the walls around their homeland of Jerusalem, Nehemiah was broken-hearted.  He entered a season of intense fasting and prayer that lasted for months.  During that time, he made calculations, charted plans, and considered possibilities.

With permission from King Artaxerxes, Nehemiah traveled back to Jerusalem in order to rebuild the walls surrounding the holy city.

We’re told that Nehemiah had come “to promote the welfare of the Israelites” and that “God had put it in (his) heart” to tend to the safety of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:10, 12, NIV).

God had given him this passion for his people.

In her study, Kelly Minter asks, “Who has God asked you to promote the welfare of?” and “What has God put it on your heart to do?”

For Andrea, it’s clear that her God-given passion is for foster children.  For Nehemiah, his divine passion was the safety of his people.

But God doesn’t give us these burning desires on behalf of others so that we can go it alone.  He doesn’t so much assign personal projects as He anoints leaders who will invite and encourage others to join them in the work.

Nehemiah could have tried to clear the rubble from the old walls, cut and placed new stones and cemented them into place all on his own.

He would have failed.

Instead, he rallied the people of God to work together to rebuild their city. Nehemiah chapter 3 is the story of what happens when people are unified for a cause.  It tells us exactly who was involved in the rebuilding project and at the end of almost every section we’re told who was working “next to him” (Nehemiah 3:2, 4, 7 . . . ).  Goldsmiths, merchants, town officials and temple servants learned new skills in the construction trade in order to get the job done.

That’s because God’s people work best when we’re working next to each other for the same goal.

Not only that, but Nehemiah 3 also encourages us to find ways not just to involve the community, friends, or churches in our projects, but to train up our kids in compassionate service, as well.

Nehemiah 3:12 says, “Shallum son of Hallohesh, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section with the help of his daughters.”

It was Take Your Daughter To Community Work Day.

We can’t support every cause or solve every problem.  We can’t assist in every crisis or care for every need.  We’d never get anything accomplished if we tried to lend a hand to every good cause.

But when God breaks our heart on behalf of others, it’s His way of showing us where to work.

Then, instead of struggling on our own, we share that passion with those around us and maybe they pick up tools and stand next to us, rebuilding broken down walls together.

And we bring our kids alongside.  My daughter asked me last night, “What’s the suitcase for, Mom?”   I told her all about it.  So, now I’m not the only one hunting for luggage as I drive about town.

We’re doing it together.

You can read about Suitcase of Love here at Andrea’s blog.
You can find out more about Kelly Minter’s study, Nehemiah: A Heart That Breaks 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