I Don’t Know and That’s Okay

ezekiel-37

I almost pulled over when I saw the sign.

My son and I took the morning off.  I had a to-do list to attend to.  Cleaning to accomplish.  Writing to get done.

But we were tired.

Our family is having one of those weeks where we barely have time to breathe plus I’d stayed up late watching the presidential election results.

So, I abandoned chores, filled a to-go mug with caffeinated tea, loaded my three-year-old into the minivan and went for a drive.

I saw the sign on our way home while listening to my son chatter about “Batman” and “bad guys” and other highly important toddler issues.

Someone had posted a huge wooden sign on the side of the busy road saying:

Kristen, please come home. ♥

I’ve spent two days thinking about Kristen and praying for Kristen.

A sign like that stirs up my question-asking nature.  I’m always the person asking the most questions.  Always.

And doesn’t this just make you want to ask?

Who wrote that sign?  Who is Kristen?  Why is Kristen gone?  What turmoil was there, what bitterness or anger might have made her leave?

Or maybe she was taken?  What if someone hurt her or is hurting her?

Will she ever come home?  Will things change for the better?

Oh, Jesus, please rescue Kristen from whatever pit has her trapped and maybe scared or hurting.

I almost turned my minivan right around and parked in that lot to take a picture of the sign so I could remember.

But I didn’t.  I kept driving and turns out, I didn’t even need the reminder because Kristen and her sign are etched on my heart.

Here I had my precious baby boy right there in the van with me, still maintaining a running dialogue about superheroes, and another person—maybe a mom like me—was missing someone dear.

Since seeing that sign, not only am I aching for someone else’s pain and compelled to prayer on behalf of another, I’m reminded anew of all I don’t know.

I don’t know anything about Kristen or her circumstances or her family.

I have the most superficial awareness of someone else’s deep reality.

But that’s okay.

We’re people who love scientific certainty, but we live in an uncertain world and that makes us feel a bit shaky at times.

But sometimes the healthiest  and wisest thing we can do is admit we don’t know everything.

In the book of Ezekiel, God shows the prophet a valley full of dead bones and asks:

“Son of man, can these bones live?” (Ezekiel 37:3 NIV).

How would I have answered?

Maybe I’d have lacked faith that God could do the impossible and told Him surely those bones were dead as dead could be–as if I knew all there was to know.

But Ezekiel answered differently.  He said,

 “Sovereign Lord, you alone know” (Ezekiel 37:3 NIV).

God is sovereign, Ruler of all, in control of what we face, aware of all that remains hidden to us.

And we don’t have to know everything, because we know HIM and He knows….and that’s enough.

Every day, we face a million questions, so many without answers.

The questions themselves can be healthy–they can draw us closer to His side.  They keep the dialogue open instead of shutting it down in hurtful bitterness.

We ask:

Why this, God, and not that?  Why do I have to wait?  Why the hurt or the pain or sorrow?

This not-knowing, this life where we can embrace the mysterious and uncertain, can propel us to know Him better.

When we realize what we don’t know, we seek God’s perspective and His answers instead of providing our own.

We leave our problems in HIs hands instead of trying to keep control ourselves.

We stop trying to force our own plans and agendas and start resting in the arms of Jesus.

We can pray by trusting the Holy Spirit to be at work in ways we can’t see to help people we don’t know through issues we don’t fully comprehend.

I don’t know Kristen.  I don’t know her family.  I don’t know the story behind the sign.

I don’t know about a lot in the world, not about why some things happen or what God’s plans are for me or for others around me.

But I can know Him, and I can try everyday to know Him more deeply and truly, and I can remember this:

“Know that the Lord, he is God!  It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture (Psalm 100:3 ESV).

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 NIV

Being Still is only the first step

psalm 46 NASB

I found her that day with untied tap shoes on her feet and eyes red from crying.

We zipped into the ballet studio, one mom and three girls (plus one baby boy) on a mission.

Three daughters in four back-to-back and sometimes overlapping dance classes during observation week.  This means instead of huddling in my minivan or zooming around town doing errands in between classes, I sat in the corner of the dance class taking pictures.

We all piled into my youngest daughter’s class except for my tap-dancing girl who left to change into her tap-tap-tappy shoes.  I watched the clock carefully and slipped out just in time to check on her before her tap class began.

She wiped her eyes and explained, “I couldn’t get the ribbons on my shoes tied and I didn’t have anyone to help me….”

I tied the ribbons swiftly and then smoothed down her hair with my hand.  Then I said it so she knew it wasn’t just about shoes anymore:

You didn’t trust me to come help you.  I knew you’d need help and I came just in time.

She’d been frantic and upset and all along I had a plan for her rescue and I was right on time, not a second too late.

So, all her fretting had been unnecessary drama.

And when is fretting not?

For months, I’ve dreaded this schedule and the packed-in craziness of our agenda of these few weeks.  I feared the stress—-as in, tearful eyes, breathless suffocation just thinking about it.

But here we are.  We’re making it.  God is gracious.

Those mornings I feared how it could possibly work out, the details of each day that I just couldn’t figure out in advance, the way my to-do lists exploded at the start of each day…it’s all been in God’s hands.

When I felt that familiar strangulation of fear, I heard a still and small reminder: Don’t worry about that.  Just think about today.

So I did.

I focused just on today.

And God has been bringing me the perfect rescues at the perfect moments all along, despite all my worrying and fretting that it’d all fall apart.

Why?

Because I’m learning to trust Him.

I trust Him to bring me the help I need exactly when I need it.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

So often, we read that familiar Psalm—-BE STILL and know—and we focus on the stillness (Psalm 46:10).

Yes, stop with the flustered activity, the desperate attempts to fix things on our own, the frantic search for help from everyone except the only One who can truly save….

“Cease striving” it says in the NASB.

So, for a moment we pause.

Here’s what I’ve been learning—“Being still” is not enough. It simply tells me what not to do.

Don’t rush around in frantic activity.
Don’t try to do everything on your own.
Don’t come up with your on fixes and try to force your own solutions.
Don’t keep a white-knuckled grip of control on your circumstances.
Don’t rehash regrets or dwell on hypothetical problems that haven’t even happened yet.

I can’t forget, though, that after I’ve ceased that striving and calmed my heart, God tells me what I should be doing in the stillness.

The verse tells me to “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10 ESV).

Know Him.

Know He is God.

Know that He’s got this under control and I can rest because He cares for me.

He is I AM.  He isn’t just the God who was or the God who will be faithful.

He is here.  Now.  In this very moment, I rely on His presence.

So, like Moses standing there on a holy mountain before a Holy God, I pray that I may know Him:

If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you (Exodus 33:13).

Because, God, in order to dwell in Your presence day after hectic day, I must be still and I must know.  I want to know You more, know You as I AM, know You as God present with me.  ~Amen~

Originally posted February 11, 2014

Pursuing His Presence: Because Being Still Is Not Enough

I found her with untied tap shoes on her feet and eyes red from crying.

We zipped into the ballet studio, one mom and three girls (plus one baby boy) on a mission.exodus33

Three daughters in four back-to-back and sometimes overlapping dance classes during observation week.  This means instead of huddling in my minivan or zooming around town doing errands in between classes, I sat in the corner of class taking pictures.

We all piled into my youngest daughter’s class except for my tap-dancing girl who left to change into her tap-tap-tappy shoes.  I watched the clock carefully and slipped out just in time to check on her before her tap class began.

She wiped her eyes and explained, “I couldn’t get the ribbons on my shoes tied and I didn’t have anyone to help me….”

I tie the ribbons swiftly and then smooth down her hair with my hand.  Then I say it so she knows it’s not just about shoes anymore:

You didn’t trust me to come help you.  I knew you’d need help and I came just in time.

She’d been frantic and upset and all along I had a plan for her rescue and I was right on time, not a second too late.

So, all her fretting had been unnecessary drama.

And when is fretting not?

I started this year with intentionality: 12 months of pursuing the presence of Christ in the middle of the noise, mess, and busyness of life.  Today, I finish January’s journey, learning to be still and know that He is God.

For months, I dreaded this start to the year, knowing it would be the busiest and craziest of our busy and crazy schedule.  I feared the stress—-as in, tearful eyes, breathless suffocation just thinking about it.

But here we are.  We made it.  God is gracious.  When I felt that familiar strangulation of fear, I heard that still and small reminder: Don’t worry about that.  Just think about today.

So I did.

And, as much as I whine perhaps about winter, the overload of snow days has given me unexpected rest when we needed it most.psalm46-10

God planned the perfect rescue at the perfect moment for me all along, but I had been fretting and worrying.

Why?

Because I didn’t trust Him.

So often, we read that familiar Psalm—-BE STILL and know—and we focus on the stillness (Psalm 46:10).

Yes, stop with the flustered activity, the desperate attempts to fix things on our own, the frantic search for help from everyone except the only One who can truly save….

“Cease striving” it says in the NASB.

So, for a moment we pause.

Here’s what I’ve learned this month, though—“Being still” is not enough. It simply tells me what not to do.

I can’t forget that after I’ve ceased that striving and calmed my heart, God tells me what I should be doing in the stillness:

Know Him, Know He is God, Know that He’s got this under control and I can rest in the knowing that He cares for me.

Ann Voskamp reminds me of this….to remember He is I AM.  His very name is the reminder of His Presence here in this present moment.

Like Moses, I’ve asked in the boldest of ways that God will show me His Glory this year.  And, like Moses, I’ve told God that I don’t want to move from this place until His presence will go with me.

So, like Moses standing there on a holy mountain before a Holy God, I pray this also:

If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you (Exodus 33:13).

Because, God, in order to dwell in Your presence day after hectic day, I must be still and know You more, know You as I AM, know You as God present with me.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me next month as I focus on Praying Simply?

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

What My Three-Month Old Is Teaching His Mama

I hear his sharp, startled cry.

It’s only been half an hour since I cradled him and tucked him into his baby bed for the night.  This awakening is unexpected.

I slip into his room and its deep darkness.  Even though I can’t see his tiny frame, I hear him squirming, kicking, tossing his face side to side searching for me and calling out for rescue and help.psalm46-10

The floor creaks under my footstep and he ceases the cries, lies still for a moment, just waiting for Mommy to reach in and scoop him up into arms that will soothe and fix and comfort.

He knows I’m there even though he can’t see me.  And for the moment, that’s enough.

I lift him out of the bassinet, snuggle him close and rock from side to side, patting his back and assuring him that “Mommy’s here, baby boy.  Mommy will make it better.”

Soon his muscles relax and his head droops down onto my shoulder.  His breathing slows and deepens.

Still, I sway back and forth in the darkness and quiet, cuddling this infant blessing, not ready yet to move and let go.

And I’m thinking about this.

After just three months of life with me, my son calms simply at the creaking floorboards that announce my presence in the room.

But me?

I don’t have an infant faith or a 3-month experience with my Savior.

Thirty years into this faith journey, still I scream and thrash and demand attention and rescue even when I know He’s with me, even when He’s assured me of His presence, even though He’s never once failed or abandoned me.

I cradle my son and continue rocking back and forth as God reminds me:

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”
Psalm 46:10 NIV

It’s not a verse about quiet times or somber worship.  It’s a battlefield Psalm, written when circumstances crushed God’s people and their hearts were trembling. The Sons of Korah wrote a song to remind God’s people of this:

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1 NIV).

Ever-present.  That’s what our God is.  He’s with us.  Even before He lifts us out of the pit, we can hear the creaking of His footsteps nearby and know He’s there in the darkness.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

Therefore—-because He’s always there—-we need not fear, no matter what rumbles and falls to pieces around us.  Even if the foundations of the earth shake, He is our unshakeable Foundation.

Indeed:

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress (Psalm 46:7 NIV).

So, “be still.”

Be still and know that He Is God. He will be exalted.psalm46

In the midst of any darkness, in any storm, in any crisis or struggle or pain, He will display His glory through the rescue and redemption of His children.

That’s me and you.

Those Psalm-writing sons of Korah say it again.  Maybe they know we struggle to understand.  Maybe they know that a three-month-old baby can trust his imperfect Mama, and yet we’ll fail to trust our perfect God.

So they repeat it for our stubborn, slow-to-learn shaky souls:

The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress (Psalm 46:11).

It’s not just the earthquakes and battles that make me question His presence sometimes.  It can be as simple as the overwhelming rush of my minivan life.

But there, yes, even there on the busiest of breathless days, The Lord is with me and it’s His presence that gives me peace.

As I lay my sleeping baby boy back down in his bed, I find myself singing an old hymn, a favorite that I’ve sung through some of the hardest times of my life.

It’s a song I’ll be singing all month long as I pursue the presence of Christ by being still and knowing He is God.

What songs do you sing when you’re scared or overwhelmed and need to know God is with you?

Be Still, My Soul
by Katharina Amalia Dorothea von Schlegel

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below….

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last…

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!
To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

VBS for Grown-Ups: Trusting God Helps Us

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

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

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

“Where are you going, Mom?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trusting God in that way helps us stand strong.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Present and Accounted For

“Where are you going, Mom?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today is a day to praise God for His presence:

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

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

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

Copyright © 2012 Heather King