Broken Lenses and The Faith Dare

When my daughters are excited, they jump.

Ice cream!
Jump, jump, jump.

Playdate!
Jump, jump, jump.

Trip to the aquarium!
More jumping.

You’d think after years of being a mom to these jumping beans, I’d have learned to announce good news from afar.

But I haven’t.  My dentist can probably attest to how many times one of their heads has slammed into my jaw as I foolishly stood over them and made a thrilling announcement.

So, when I took the girls to a children’s museum for an exhibit on butterflies, I should have maintained a safe distance, walking behind them the whole way.

But I didn’t.  Instead, I held my camera in my hand and walked next to my oldest daughter who took one look at the massive monarch caterpillar entryway and . . . .

Jumped . . .right into my hand, knocking my camera to the concrete sidewalk.  From then on, the lens made this sickening grinding noise as it turned on or tried to focus for a shot.

My husband performed camera surgery and that helped for a while.  Yet, eventually the lens stuck in place again.  Now my camera clicks and grinds when you turn it on and then flashes red light onto the display before showing the message, “Lens error.  Camera will shut down now.”

With my camera out of focus, I’ve been wondering how often we experience brokenness in similar ways.  Something sends us hurtling to the ground—a hurt, a sickness, loss, sadness, fear,13594380_s death, confusion, loneliness, conflict, fatigue—and suddenly our perspective is askew.  We see everything through a lens that is stuck and out of focus.

Certainly we lose God’s perspective often enough.

This earthly life of ours will always be accompanied by a darkened view and limited line of sight.  Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:2, NASB).

It’s not until Glory that we’ll receive heavenly lenses and eternal scope.

Until then, we’ll probably still be asking: Why did that happen?  How long will this take?  What’s the point of this and the significance of that?  Is there any hope?  What is around the corner?  What will my future hold? 

But here and now, even the darkness can be enlightened at times.

We can remember …

….that God breathed life into dust.

The materials we give Him do not limit what God can create.  Peter tells us,

“Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right” (1 Peter 4:19).

In any situation, we can have full confidence in our faithful Creator, who makes beautiful things out of dust and even forms the dust itself.

…that God restores life when all seems dead.

In the book of Job, we read: “There is hope for a tree: If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail.  Its roots may grow old in the ground and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth shoots like a plant” (Job 14:7-9).

So if you are feeling the weight of broken branches and fallen leaves, when you feel fruitless, abandoned, cut down to the very stump and left for dead, allow hope to refocus your lens.  Despite seeing fruitless death, we remember that God restores and redeems.

… that even rain is a blessing.

In the book of Joel, God promised Israel restoration and renewal if they would repent and return to Him.  Following judgment and famine, they would see new growth, but it required rain to wash away the dry, crumpled weeds and to saturate the earth with life-giving water.

Joel tells the people to “rejoice in the Lord your God!  For the rain He sends demonstrates His faithfulness” (Joel 2:23 NLT).

Even in the downpour, we can praise Him for bringing new life with His faithful love.

Oh, it’s not easy of course.  Our lenses are still faulty.  It’s the way we’re made.  We’re finite.  Limited.  Created without the ability to see the long-term and the eternal.

We’re broken cameras, all of us.

In The Faith Dare, Debbie Alsdorf writes:

When we focus only on self and become consumed by the conflict, we begin to live under it rather than being an overcomer through faith in Christ (p.. 160).

Let it be our prayer, though, that He be our vision, that He provide our focus, and that He guide our perspective.  It’s the only way to truly see.

Devotional adapted from A Broken Lens, originally published 10/14/2011

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

Weekend Rerun: And Then What Happened, Part I

Originally posted on June 1, 2011

“Nothing, you see, is impossible with God”
(Luke 1:36, MSG)

I’m not a big fan of surprises and hate suspense.  With the end of the regular TV season, I recorded the season finales of a few shows and will let them sit unwatched until September.  That way I can watch the season finale in all of its suspenseful glory and then immediately watch the resolution that typically occurs in the first 5 minutes of the new season.

Spending an entire summer not knowing how a story ends is not my idea of a good time.

I do it with books, too.  If a character is in jeopardy, I’ll flip ahead a few pages to see if his name still occurs in the text (he must still be alive) and then turn back to continue the story from where I left off.  Removing the tension and nervousness helps me enjoy the story with leisure.

At least, that’s my excuse.  My husband, however, says “I destroy the dramatic integrity of the author.”

Outside of the fictional world, I’m still no fan of cliffhangers. As a believer in Jesus Christ, I can live with my eternal future already determined.  I can easily skip to the end of The Book, read the final chapters and then happily mosey through the rest of the story, looking forward always to the “blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).

In some ways, though, my eternal destination is the easy part.  It’s the suspense of day-to-day living that makes me want to “skip to the end” at times.

Once in middle school I lost my math book for a few days.  Fearing my teacher’s wrath (this mild-mannered, soft-spoken Algebra teacher of mine), I prayed at night, letting God know that it would be a great time for Jesus to come back and requesting that He please end my misery by whisking me off to heaven.

The rapture obviously did not occur in order to meet my middle school needs.  Instead, I had to “fess up” and tell my teacher about my missing book, which he promptly discovered in the Lost and Found.

That night I spent without my math book, though, was a horror of suspense.

Maybe you, like me, have asked some of these questions, no longer about lost math books, but now about your children, your marriage, your finances, your job, your ministry, your future.  Is everything going to turn out okay?  What is going to happen next?  Will things work out the way I want them to?

When I find myself asking these questions, I’ve learned to stop and ponder these things:

Part I: Put It In Perspective:

As a teacher, I had occasional extra duties outside the classroom, including morning drop-off.  One morning, a petite third-grade girl ran up to me in hysterics.  I thought someone had died, certainly some horrible tragedy had occurred in her home.  It seemed like a true crisis.

She had forgotten her lunch.

“Oh, baby girl,” I said as I held her hand and dropped to my knees so I could look in her eyes, “it’s okay.  Maybe we’ll call your mom for your lunch.  Maybe we’ll get you lunch from the cafeteria.  Either way, you don’t need to worry.”

Immediately, I felt that deep prompting of the Holy Spirit: “How often have you cried in despair over a crisis that is as easy-to-fix in My sight as a forgotten lunch bag?” 

It’s not that God brushes aside our pain as childish or that the trials that leave us broken and hurting are foolish and unimportant to God.

Not at all.

Yet, it’s so easy to lose perspective because the issues we face in this world are sometimes big, certainly too much for us to handle and it’s hard to have hope when circumstances seem hopeless.

Consider some of the “cliffhangers” in Scripture:

  • Moses and the entire nation of Israel stood on the banks of the Red Sea, rushing water in front of them, Pharaoh’s army in hot pursuit behind them.  Would God rescue them from the enemy and bring them to freedom?
  • Daniel spent all night alone in a dark den of hungry lions and the king himself burst out of bed at the first light of dawn to see if Daniel had survived the night.  Was he still alive down there?
  • The three men stood before the fiery furnace, watching as the guards carrying them to the edge of the flames burnt to ashes.  Would God save them from the furnace?
  • Esther marched into the throne room uninvited by the king in order to beg for mercy for her people, knowing that her boldness could get her killed.  Would the king allow her to live and grant her request?

These aren’t scenarios of lost math books or forgotten lunches.  They are life and death matters in the worst possible physical circumstances.  So then what happened?

What happened was God.

What happens in our Christian walk will always be with God. 

When we stand on the precipice of unknown, feeling the knots in our stomach, fretting at night rather than sleeping, wondering what will happen next, we hand that situation over to God and then remember:

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us
(Ephesians 3:201-21, MSG).

Even in the biggest trials, we must remember how big our God is.

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

And then what happened?– Part I

“Nothing, you see, is impossible with God”
(Luke 1:36, MSG)

I’m not a big fan of surprises and hate suspense.  With the end of the regular TV season upon us, I’ve recorded the season finales of a few shows and will let them sit unwatched until September.  That way I can watch the season finale in all of its suspenseful glory and then immediately watch the resolution that typically occurs in the first 5 minutes of the new season. Spending an entire summer not knowing how a story ends is not my idea of a good time.

I do it with books, too.  If a character is in jeopardy, I’ll flip ahead a few pages to see if his name still occurs in the text (he must still be alive) and then turn back to continue the story from where I left off.  I’ve been known to read the last page of a book first and then flip back to the beginning.  In most cases, I’ll still read the book the whole way through, but I can do it without tension or nervousness and am therefore more able to enjoy the story with some leisure and appreciate the actual writing.  At least, that’s my excuse.  My husband, however, says “I destroy the dramatic integrity of the author.”

Outside of the fictional world, I’m still no fan of cliffhangers. As a believer in Jesus Christ, I can live with my eternal future already determined.  I can easily skip to the end of The Book, read the final chapters and then happily mosey through the rest of the story, looking forward always to the “blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).

In some ways, though, my eternal destination is the easy part.  It’s the suspense of day-to-day living that makes me want to “skip to the end” at times.  Once in middle school I lost my math book for a few days.  Fearing my teacher’s wrath (this mild-mannered, soft-spoken Algebra teacher of mine), I prayed at night, letting God know that it would be a great time for Jesus to come back and requesting that He please end my misery by whisking me off to heaven.  The rapture obviously did not occur in order to meet my middle school needs.  Instead, I had to tell my teacher that my book was missing and all of my nightmares and worst fears abated when my math book reappeared on my desk the next day, having been discovered in the school lost and found.

That night I spent without my math book, though, was a horror of suspense for me.  What exactly would happen?  How would this all work out?

Maybe you, like me, have asked some of these questions, no longer about lost math books, but now about your children, your marriage, your finances, your job, your ministry, your future.  Is everything going to turn out okay?  What is going to happen next?  Will things work out the way I want them to?

When I find myself asking these questions, I’ve learned to stop and ponder these things:

Part I: Put It In Perspective:

As a teacher, I had occasional extra duties outside the classroom, including morning drop-off.  One morning, a petite third-grade girl ran up to me in hysterics.  I thought someone had died, certainly some horrible tragedy had occurred in her home.  It seemed like a true crisis.

She had forgotten her lunch.

“Oh, baby girl,” I said as I held her hand and dropped to my knees so I could look in her eyes, “it’s okay.  Maybe we’ll call your mom for your lunch.  Maybe we’ll get you lunch from the cafeteria.  Either way, you don’t need to worry.”

Immediately, I felt that deep prompting of the Holy Spirit asking me, “How often have you cried in despair over a crisis that is as easy-to-fix in My sight as a forgotten lunch bag?”  This little girl didn’t have any hope, she couldn’t see any remedy or solution on her own, but when she gave the problem to me, I resolved it within seconds.

It’s not that God brushes aside our pain as childish or that the trials that leave us broken and hurting are foolish and unimportant to God.  Not at all.  Yet, it’s so easy to lose perspective because the issues we face in this world are sometimes big, certainly too much for us to handle and it’s hard to have hope when circumstances seem hopeless.

Consider some of the “cliffhangers” in Scripture for a brief moment:

  • Moses and the entire nation of Israel stood on the banks of the Red Sea, rushing water in front of them, Pharaoh’s army in hot pursuit behind them.  Would God rescue them from the enemy and bring them to freedom?
  • Daniel spent all night alone in a dark den of hungry lions and the king himself burst out of bed at the first light of dawn and rushed to the cave to see if Daniel had survived the night.  Was he still alive down there?
  • The three men stood before the fiery furnace, watching as the guards carrying them to the edge of the flames burnt to ashes.  Would God save them from the furnace?
  • Esther marched into the throne room uninvited by the king in order to beg for mercy for her people, knowing that her boldness could get her killed.  Would the king allow her to live and grant her request?

These aren’t scenarios of lost math books or forgotten lunches.  They are life and death matters in the worst possible physical circumstances.  They were impossible situations with insurmountable odds.  So then what happened?

What happened was God.  Yes, these problems weren’t trivial or small, petty or frivolous to the people in them.  But, as difficult as our life may be or as dark and scary as the unknown appears, what happens in our Christian walk will always be with God. 

When we stand on the precipice of unknown, feeling the knots in our stomach, fretting at night rather than sleeping, wondering what will happen next, we hand that situation over to God and then remember:

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us
(Ephesians 3:201-21, MSG).

“Nothing, you see, is impossible with God” (Luke 1:36, MSG)

Even in the biggest trials, we must remember how big our God is.

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

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

Kaleidoscope Moment

“Surely, God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.  The Lord, the Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation”
Isaiah 12:2-3, NIV

Imagine you’re on Jeopardy in a close match with your two co-contestants.  You choose your next category and see the Double Jeopardy sign.  This is your chance!  You can “risk it all, Alex” and go for a true Double Jeopardy, thereby leaving your opponents impossibly behind when you answer correctly.   Or, you can play it safe, and risk only a minor amount; you wouldn’t gain much, but you wouldn’t lose much either.

What would you do?  Are you a risk-taker or a play-it-safe kind of person?

I know what I would do.  I’d wager about $200 and pinch myself later if I knew the answer to the question.  That’s one reason you’ll never see me on Jeopardy.  That and the fact I know almost nothing about sports, pop culture,  geography and tons of other things.  Oh, and I freeze up under pressure.  I’m not really Jeopardy champion material.

Since I’m not a risk-taker, it frightens me when God asks me to take bold steps of faith and follow Him in obedience as we travel into the unknown.  It’s too . . . well, risky!  What if I get lost?  What if I don’t survive?  What if I heard God wrong?  What if I get embarrassed?  What if God doesn’t provide?  What if I’m not successful?

This is one of those “kaleidescope moments” in our faith walk.  These classic toys seem almost magical at times.  You hold a simple tube up to the light and the mosaic of colors inside shines and flashes in a beautiful pattern.  With one simple twist, the colors fall into a new pattern—still beautiful, but now so very different.

God sometimes needs to give our perspective a little twist, so that we see from His eyes.   The new pattern will be beautiful and oh so very different from what we’ve seen before.

Even when God calls us out into the unknown, even when He asks us to stop playing it safe, even when He asks us to follow obediently before the plan is revealed, even when He asks us to do something that sounds crazy, even when He asks us to do something different than everyone around us . . . even then, there really isn’t anything risky about following God.  That’s because no matter where God takes us, He walks by our side and His promises remain true.

We don’t have to take a risk.  Instead, we can enjoy what Kay Arthur calls “the rest of faith,” when we unite “the Word of God with faith for a particular situation.”   Psalm 91 promises us that “those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1, NIV).   That’s a shift in our perspective; a new way to look at God’s call on our lives.

Paul demonstrated this rest of faith while he was a prisoner on a ship at sea that was caught in a terrible storm.  “The next day, as gale-force winds continued to batter the ship, the crew began throwing the cargo overboard. The following day they even took some of the ship’s gear and threw it overboard.  The terrible storm raged for many days, blotting out the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone” (Acts 27:19-20, NIV).

Everyone had lost hope–except Paul.  He rested in faith.  God had told Paul previously that he would travel to Rome and preach Christ there.  No storm could prevent God from fulfilling His promise.  That night on the ship, God reconfirmed His plan by sending an angel who said “‘Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar!  What’s more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.”  Paul announced to those on the ship, “So take courage!  For I believe God.  It will be just as he said” (Acts 27: 24-25, NIV).

Even with these assurances from Paul, the sailors were frightened and tried to abandon ship.  Wouldn’t you?

When Paul confronted them and said, “You will all die unless the sailors stay aboard,” they amazingly listened to his assurances and “cut the ropes to the lifeboat and let it drift away.”  Later, Paul told these men who had not eaten for two weeks, to eat and strengthen themselves.   Scripture tells us, “Everyone was encouraged and began to eat” and then, in a true display of faith, “the crew lightened the ship further by throwing the cargo of wheat overboard” (Acts 27:30-37).

Paul’s confident faith was infectious.  The sailors were now without a lifeboat as an escape plan and without any food provisions to count on for the future.   All they had was God’s promise that they would be okay.

The good news is that God’s promises are enough.  Everyone on that ship survived the storm and made it safely to land just as God had said.

Like Paul, we have promises that we can rest in even when life seems risky.  We don’t need lifeboats or cargo to guarantee our safety through a storm.  God promises that He will go with us and never abandon us.  He promises to shelter us and set us high above our enemies.  He promises to provide for our needs and to give us all-sufficient grace.  He promises to strengthen us and renew us day by day.

These promises mean that life for those with faith is never really risky.  Instead, with a simple shift in our kaleidoscope and change in our perspective, God can help us experience the rest of faith by connecting His promises with our situation.  Then, we will “trust and not be afraid” (Isaiah 12:2, NIV).

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

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

A Blameless Heart

“I will walk in my house with a blameless heart”
Psalm 101:2

Yesterday, I went to a funeral home where family and friends gathered around a casket that should just be too small to exist.  A slide show displayed pictures of the sweetest little baby girl, enjoying her first birthday, meeting Chuck E. Cheese, looking no bigger than my youngest daughter—and a few feet away was this baby girl’s casket.

A moment like that is a terrible shock for someone like me.  I’m a to-do list maker, a go-getter, a get-things-done kind of person.  There are days when it probably seems to my daughters that since Candy Land isn’t on Mommy’s very official to-do list, we can’t play.

Yet, last night I saw an unmistakable reminder that people are ever so much more important than any deadline or production goal.

It’s very easy for me to let external priorities take precedence over my relationships with people.  Over the years, I’ve had to slowly learn not to begin conversations by going directly to “business.”  God has taught my heart how to truly mean it when I ask someone, “How are you doing?” and to linger there in the relationship time before moving ahead to any items on my agenda.

From God’s perspective, people are always top priority.  His entire goal from the creation of the world was to build relationship with us.  When Adam and Eve’s sin caused a breach in that precious communion with God, He immediately began planning a way to reunite us, ultimately sacrificing His Son all because of His great, enduring and passionate love for us.  Relationship with us was always part of His plan.

If God loves people that much, then we should reflect His heart by loving people also.   In his book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson writes:

People are at the center of the Christian work. In the way of pilgrimage we do not drive cumbersome Conestoga wagons loaded down with baggage over endless prairies.  We travel light.  The character of our work is shaped not by accomplishments or possessions but in the birth of relationships.

When the Psalmist writes in Psalm 127:3, “Children are God’s best gift,” it reminds my mommy heart to value God’s greatest gifts to me by prioritizing time with my children over my work.

But this verse isn’t just for parents.  It shows that God’s focus is always on relationships over tasks, people over productivity.  Eugene Peterson wrote, “We invest our energy in people.  Among those around us we develop sons and daughters, sisters and brothers even as our Lord did with us.”

In our efforts to love people, though, sometimes we fall into the trap of “ministering” to people and “serving” in the church, but never really loving anybody!  Even ministry—the programmed and scheduled kind of ministry—can get in the way of actually ministering to people.  Are we too busy attending meetings to take dinner to a sick friend?  Are we on so many committees we no longer have time to meet another woman for lunch and encourage her?

And then there are the times when loving and serving people means “other people” and not those in our own homes.   We’re “showing God’s love” to the neighbor, to the single mom at church, to the child in our Sunday School class.   Yet, sometimes the people we love the very most can get the worst part of us.  We can be gentle with anyone but our kids.  We can be encouraging to everyone except our husbands.

In one of my most favorite books, Bleak House, Charles Dickens described Mrs. Jellyby as: “a lady of very remarkable strength of character who devotes herself entirely to the public. She has devoted herself to an extensive variety of public subjects, at various times, and is at present (until something else attracts her) devoted to the subject of Africa”.

Just like me, Mrs. Jellyby was a get-things-done kind of woman, but her eyes were so fixed on saving orphans in Africa, that her own children were starving, dirty, uneducated, in rags, and totally unloved.

Mrs. Jellyby is an extreme, but it’s not difficult to see how we can get our priorities scrambled at times.  I had a friend who had some special recipes that her family loved,.  More importantly, though, the people at her church loved them.  So, she would fix them for church potlucks.  After all, everyone wants to have the empty dish at the end of the covered dish meal!  But when her kids would come home and smell the delicious cookies baking, she’d say, “Those are for church!”  Then, one day she was reminded that she should cook the special dishes and treats for her precious children also—not just for the people outside her home.

I love what Paul wrote in Colossians 3:23-24: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.  It is Christ whom you serve.”

In the past, I’ve taken that verse to mean that I should work hard at my job, give my best effort in ministry, and just generally DO stuff for God.  Yet, I have no greater work or ministry than serving and loving my husband and my children.  After that, my top priority should be relationships with the other people God places in my life.

That means: Being patient with my daughter as she learns to tie her shoelaces.  Taking a break from work to play Candy Land.  Fixing my daughter the pasta salad that I normally reserve for church potlucks.  Writing a note to my husband, not just the ladies in my Bible Study.

I do all of these things “as for the Lord rather than for men” because “it is Christ whom I serve.”   We will get no earthly recognition, plaque, award, or productivity bonus from loving people.  In fact, if we love as we’re supposed to–humbly, quietly, and sacrificially–no one may ever even know it’s happening.  Nevertheless, God always sees our actions and heart when we, like Him, make people our priority and  He will give us “the reward of the inheritance.”

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

Copyright © 2011 Heather King