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

Shelter in the Storm, Part I

In my small group last week, a beautifully wise lady reminded us that we can’t always see God at work.  He saves us in so many hidden ways, doing things we may never appreciate until we look through our life with a heavenly view.  It’s like the times we were running late and a car accident happened right where we would have been had we been on time.  It’s an invisible hand of grace.

Certainly sometimes God protects us even when we do not know we are in danger.  So it was for many of us in my small town this week.  The day after a tornado hit, a friend posted on her blog, “What tornado?”  Her power had gone out and she hadn’t even known the cause until a friend called to see if she was safe.

It was the same for us.  A split-second loss of power was our only impact from a whirlwind that wreaked havoc on homes, churches and a school just a few miles away.  Others we knew had been watching constant broadcasts on the local news channel and still others huddled under doorways and in bathrooms with laptops and cell phones, trying to stay safe and informed.  We, on the other hand, went about our Saturday night business, eating dinner, giving the girls baths, reading, relaxing and preparing for church the next day.  We were oblivious to even the possibility of a storm, and so we didn’t even know at first that God was keeping us safe.

So often, we miss seeing how God is at work in our lives because we aren’t bothering to look.  The storm demanded our attention, though.  Suddenly, we heard story after story of protection and deliverance.  A car that usually is parked where a tree crashed down, but for some reason people decided at the last minute to drive the car instead of the truck.  A former home totally destroyed down to its foundation.  Trees crashing through the roofs of houses in just the right spot, narrowly missing the people sitting just a few feet away—unharmed and untouched.  A school destroyed on a Saturday night, thankfully empty of the students and teachers there five other days of the week.  Churches similarly empty of people when their roofs were peeled off by the wind, empty because the storm didn’t happen on a Sunday.

We tell the stories and shake our heads as we are astonished by grace and overwhelmed by mercy.

We notice His grace and mercy because of the storm, but God is at work in our lives every day and we’re just generally too busy to stop and see. In her book One in a Million, Prisiclla Shirer reminds us to “practice watchfulness” and to take deliberate pauses in the midst of our daily and our everyday so that we can look for God’s activity.  If we want to see God, really and truly see Him at work, we need to be on the look-out for what He is doing in the quiet and mundane days just as much as in the storm.

God called the Israelites to this stance of watchfulness in Exodus 14:13 in the midst of a storm of their own.  The Hebrews were terrified of the Egyptian chariots barreling through the wilderness in their direction while the Israelites stood trapped–Pharaoh’s army on one side, Red Sea on the other. “Moses spoke to the people: ‘Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and watch God do his work of salvation for you today. Take a good look at the Egyptians today for you’re never going to see them again'” (Exodus 14:13, MSG).  The people were told to watch, just watch.  Be on the lookout for what God is going to do.  Keep your eyes open to how He’s going to save you.  Don’t turn your head or avert your gaze or you’ll miss out on a God-sighting and the chance to see Him at work.

So, I wonder—how can I be watchful for God’s activity not just when I’m trapped at the Red Sea or in the middle of a storm and crying out to God for help?  In her book, One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp determines not to miss out on God in the smallest pieces of her busy days.  She takes on a challenge, to list one thousand things she’s thankful for.  Without paragraphs of description or pages of explanation, she simply writes one-line prayers of gratitude to God.  It changes her life.  Her whole way of viewing the world is now new, passed through a filter that specifically seeks out the invisible hand of God, now made visible simply because she took the time to see it.

A friend and I read this book together.  I gulped it down, reading it in two days.  Most of the time, I found I was holding my breath as I read because I was so focused on the challenge to my heart too often cluttered with whining and complaining.   And then at the end, my friend and I decided we would make a list.  We would go to one thousand, too.

My list sits beside me now. On it, I have written “shelter in the storm even when we didn’t know we needed it.”  It’s thankfulness in the big things of life, in the the evident deliverance—like Israel crossing the Red Sea to safety while the Egyptian army drowned in the waves.

Also on my list, though:

  • Hugs from a baby in footy pajamas.
  • Fresh journals with clean, unwritten pages.
  • Homemade bread with butter all melted on top.
  • Mornings with nowhere to rush off to.

Some days I forget to deliberately pause and be watchful for God.  My list remains untouched on my table or in my bag from morning to night, but I am trying and learning to stop moving for just a brief moment a few times a day and look around, really look.  Because God isn’t just present in the storms—that’s only where we most often search for Him and that’s when His activity is most noticeable.  But He’s also in the mundane and everyday moments in my life and I will see Him there if I only take the time to quiet my heart and open my eyes in watchful anticipation.

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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

I Want to See

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people”
Ephesians 1:18, NIV

I grew up with a brother who had an eagle eye.  On car trips, he always spotted the deer far off in the fields that lined the road or saw the eagle soaring overhead.  He’d tell us all, “Look over there!  Do you see it? ” and I’d crane my neck and twist my body, quickly searching to catch a glimpse.

I always saw absolutely . . . nothing.  Ultimately, everyone else in my family would point along with him and shout, “There it is!  I see it!”  Not me.   I saw empty fields and cloud-filled skies.

That’s partly because my vision is so poor, but even with glasses I never could see what any of them saw.   Mostly it’s because I’m unobservant.  I am usually far too focused on whatever I’m thinking about to notice my surroundings.  My husband can shave off a beard he’s had for months and I won’t realize it until he physically moves my hand to his now-smooth face.  I’m the one who asks her friends, “Did you get a haircut?  or Did you get new glasses?”  And they say, “Yeah, about two months ago.”  Oops!  It’s not that I didn’t care, but I just didn’t see.

I’m unobservant sometimes with God, too.  Last week, I was writing about His amazing, abundant grace and I prayed, “Lord, I don’t feel this.  I know about Your grace and I know the verses that tell me about Your grace, but today I just want to feel it and know it personally.  Would you open my eyes and reveal this to me once again?  Help me to be fully aware of Your unfailing love and mercies made new every day.”

From prayer to productivity, off I went about the business and busyness of my day, distracted and hyper-focused on the needs at hand.  Night came.  No grace-revelation.  My feelings didn’t change.  Nothing seemed made new.

Then the phone rang, my mom, her voice serious.  She tells me—just so I know—-that a man often-welcomed in our home when I was growing up had just been arrested for hurting teenage girls.  “Rape of a Minor,” in the cold, official way the courts put it.

And there was grace, overwhelming, astonishing, and unmistakable.

God opened my eyes to see His powerful work in my life, even as a child, preserving me from harm.  He had protected me and I hadn’t even known I had tread on dangerous ground.   Nothing in my circumstances changed that night, but God opened my eyes to see the grace already at work.

In Genesis 21, Hagar ran off into the wilderness with her son for a second time.   During her first misadventure years earlier, she had run away from Sarah, her mistress, because of the abuse and mistreatment borne out of Sarah’s jealousy.  God met Hagar on her way to her native Egypt and sent her back to Abraham and Sarah.

Now, here she was again, this time wandering in the Desert of Beersheba.  She didn’t even attempt to travel to Egypt this time.  With all the years she had spent away from her homeland, it probably didn’t even seem like home anymore.  Sarah had demanded that Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son” (Genesis 21:10, NIV), and so he did.  He arose early the next day, packed Hagar a picnic lunch of “some food and a skin of water,” loaded the supplies onto her shoulders and sent her away with her son, Abraham’s son.

Now, here was Hagar.—-Homeless, single mother, without friends, caring for her boy in unfamiliar desert and running out of supplies.

Her circumstances were desperate.  Placing Ishmael under a bush, she walked away so she wouldn’t have to watch him die.  “And as she sat there, she began to sob” (Genesis 21:18).

It’s in the impossible situations where God is often most visible. So it was with Hagar.  God visited once again with Hagar and asked:

“What is the matter, Hagar?  Do not be afraid;  God has heard the boy crying as he lies there.  Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”  Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink”  (Genesis 21:17-19).

Nothing about Hagar’s circumstances changed.  Still a homeless single mother.  Still without friends or direction.  Although it is possible that God miraculously placed a new well nearby, Scripture says “God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.” It seems to me that the only thing that changed was Hagar’s vision.  Blinded by impossibilities and overwhelmed with despair, Hagar had given up when a well was so close.  God revealed to her grace and provision that she simply hadn’t seen before.

In the same way, God miraculously gave supernatural sight to Elisha’s servant in 2 Kings 6:15-17.  Surrounded by an impossibly large enemy army with horses and chariots, the servant cried out in despair, “Oh no, my lord!  What shall we do?”  Clearly, they were doomed to defeat.  Yet, Elisha assured his anxious friend:

“‘Don’t be afraid . . . those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’  And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:15-17).

Suddenly their odds of winning didn’t seem so impossible anymore, yet their reality was unchanged.  Those heavenly defenders had been there all along; the servant simply hadn’t seen them.

Last night, I sat next to a woman at dinner and she shared with me her past so drenched in pain, hurt and betrayal, and her life marred by abuse, murder, suicide.  Now, though, God had opened her eyes to His love and healing, drawing her close so He could redeem and restore her.  I cannot say why God preserved me from harm and yet this woman, still so precious to God, had been hurt.  Yet, everyone’s story is a story of grace.  Mine the grace of preservation.   Hers the grace of perseverance.  Our eyes, previously so blind, were now opened to God’s presence and activity.

In Mark 10:51, Jesus asks the blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?” and he answers, “Rabbi, I want to see.”  I echo that.  “Lord, I want to see your grace and your activity in my life.  Show me  your miraculous wells of provision and your plan for me.  Reveal to me your might and your ability to deliver me from the seemingly impossible situations.”  So often we pray for provision, deliverance and healing, but what we are really lacking is vision–the ability to see grace already present in the midst of our circumstances.

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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