This is All His Story (A Lesson from The Theater)

Looking at that stage, you would have thought that there were 40 little stars in the show.

From gingerbread cookies, to a mysterious gypsy, from village peasants to silly hobgoblins, forest sprites, and a bridge troll who wants payment from forest travelers, you couldn’t tell at a glance who was telling the main story and who was telling an aside in the performance of  The Story of Hansel and Gretel.076

My husband says that everyone on the stage has the job of telling their story.  Some get to have a name and some dialogue.  Others don’t.  But no one is simply there for background noise.

Every actor acts as if his character’s story is the main story.

But this is the life lesson that stings as it tramples down over our pride—We aren’t the main story in this world.  None of us are.

This story isn’t ours at all; it’s God’s.

Chris Tiegreen wrote:

All of our life is a struggle between self-centeredness and God-centeredness.  We know our lives are supposed to revolve around Him and His will, yet we have so many personal dreams and goals.

It’s not that our story doesn’t matter to God or that He views us as just “one of the crowd,” a random human in a sea of human need. 

To God, each person matters.  Each of us is a treasure.  Each of us is beloved and worthy of sacrifice.

Our personal story always matters to Him.

But sometimes we think we know how our story should go, never considering how our life connects, overlaps, and intertwines with the lives of those around us.

This self-centeredness, thinking it’s my story and that God needs to bend His weighty will to my own personal plan, always shows up in my prayer life.

I tell God, “Here’s what’s happening to me and it’s yucky.  I’m hurting.  I need you to answer my prayer and provide…..and here’s how You can do that.”

I’ve given God three-step strategies to provide for me or rescue me.  I’ve created mental timetables, agendas, and budgets and called out to God as if I presided over a boardroom meeting and He was the lackey in charge of production.

Foolish me, prideful me, self-centered me…I forget.  I forget that He is always the main event.  He is the hero.  He always knows my need and the best way and time to provide.   He knows how my story fits into His story.

You can pray for that specific job, at the expense of someone else who needs it and who God designed for it.  Or you can pray for the perfect job God has planned for you.

You can pray for that specific spouse you want to marry.  Or you can pray God brings you the perfect husband or wife at just the right time.  romans8-26

You can pray that God blesses your ministry efforts here.  Or you can pray that God directs your steps to the ministry He has designed for you.

We bring to Him our problem.

We leave the solutions up to Him.

That’s how we yield our story to His and allow Him full reign over our life’s direction.

This is why Paul told us more than just this verse that we like to quote so much:  “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose”  (Romans 8:28)

The verses immediately before that say:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God (Romans 8:26-27).

Then, yes, when we’ve allowed the Spirit to intercede for us according to God’s will, He works everything out for our good.

And not just for our good.

But for the good of the person to our left and the one to our right and even those so far off to the side of the stage we can’t even see them.

He sees us all and knows the perfect plan that will work for our benefit and for His glory.

But we yield our story to Him, we lay it low at His feet and let Him take center stage in our life, in our dreams, in our needs, and in relationships.

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

Devotions for Thanksgiving: Bitter Ingredients and Pumpkin Pie

Almost all of my favorite Thanksgiving memories aren’t really of the feast itself, even though I still say it’s my favorite holiday.  Mostly I grow nostalgic for Thanksgiving Eve and the Wednesday night family baking sessions we had as a kid.

There’s something deeply relational about baking, whether it’s for someone or with someone.  I find myself even now telling stories as my daughters stir and imparting generational wisdom like: why the butter and sugar get creamed together first and how you have to pack down brown sugar when you measure it out.

Hugely important life lessons like that.

And maybe I learn something, too.

The last time we crowded around the table to make pumpkin pie, my oldest asked, “Mom, what does pumpkin taste like by itself?”

She thought it would be sweet heavenly golden goodness.  After all, this daughter and I share a passion for all things pumpkin—pies, breads, cookies and cupcakes.

But I knew the dark secret about pumpkin and I tried to warn her, “You can try it if you like, but just a small taste.  It’s bitter.”

She licked a tiny bit off her finger and made the appropriate “nasty” face.

How can something so incredibly delicious in everything we bake be so horrible on its own?

I pulled out the vanilla and she bravely tasted the tiniest droplet of that also, despite the grimace over the pumpkin.thanks3

Yup, vanilla doesn’t fair any better on its own.

She even smelled each of the spices before we measured them into the bowl.  It turns out that cloves, nutmeg and ginger are more potent than sweet and more pungent than enticing.

The eggs were runny, sticky and gross.

The salt was…well, salty.

All in all, it was utterly mystifying when we finished stirring and I handed her the spoon to lick, which she popped into her mouth with a muffled, “Yummmmm.”

The truth about baking is the truth about life.  We have a reason to be thankful for every ingredient, even the ones that seem too bitter or salty or potent to turn into anything mouth-watering and delicious.

As Christians, most of us have not only heard Romans 8:28 a million times, we’ve probably quoted it a few thousand times ourselves:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28 NKJV).

You may have even just skimmed through that verse just now because you’ve heard it so often and know it so well.

And yet, we tend to emphasize the “for good” part of this verse, which means we could be expecting instant pumpkin pie when life hands us a can of Libby’s pumpkin.

That job you lost, how can that be for good?

That time of sadness, that mourning, that separation and grief, the broken relationship and the conflict…..tastes so bitter.  It doesn’t seem possible for any of it to be “for good.”

Philosophically, we know the deal.  We’ve heard the sermons.  Maybe one day we’ll see how God turned these times of sadness and stress into blessing.  Maybe it won’t be until heaven, but at least then we’ll be able to see the good that came from the ugly.

It’s a long, hard lesson, realizing that “for good” doesn’t necessarily mean “right now” or “without pain.”

But it’s true, of course.  There are eternal perspectives and long-term visions that we just can’t see from our limited, finite looking glass on circumstances so up-close and personal.

There’s something about this verse that we often overlook, though.  God isn’t just working “for good,” He’s doing it so that “all things work together.” The good comes from the mixing of ingredients, the pooling together of the circumstances into one beautiful wholeness—His plan and will for Your life.

Rick Warren says it this way:

“The events in your life work together in God’s plan.  They are not isolated acts, but interdependent parts of the process to make you like Christ….If you will give God all your distasteful, unpleasant experiences, he will blend them together for good” (The Purpose Driven Life, p. 195).

I’ve had Thanksgivings where gratitude came easy, practically gushing out of me in response to blessing.

And there were years where thankfulness was a discipline of the soul, a determined trusting in God, a sacrifice of praise.

Regardless of whether this year is easy or harder for you, remember that the pumpkin, the eggs, the salt, the vanilla, the spices aren’t delicious on their own.

But trust–and give thanks–that God will bring everything together and it will be sweet and for your blessing and beyond what you could imagine.

Originally published November 21, 2012

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

Thanksgiving Devotions: Bitter Ingredients and Pumpkin Pie

Almost all of my favorite Thanksgiving memories aren’t really of the feast itself, even though I still say it’s my favorite holiday.  Mostly I grow nostalgic for Thanksgiving Eve and the Wednesday night family baking sessions we had as a kid.

Some of our craziest family legends involve making the traditional chocolate meringue pie the night before the big day.

There’s something deeply relational about baking, whether it’s for someone or with someone.  I find myself even now telling stories as my daughters stir and imparting generational wisdom like: why the butter and sugar get creamed together first and how you have to pack down brown sugar when you measure it out.

Hugely important life lessons like that.

And maybe I learn something, too.

The last time we crowded around the table to make pumpkin pie, my oldest asked, “Mom, what does pumpkin taste like by itself?”

She thought it would be sweet heavenly golden goodness.  After all, this daughter and I share a passion for all things pumpkin—pies, breads, cookies and cupcakes.

But I knew the dark secret about pumpkin and I tried to warn her, “You can try it if you like, but just a small taste.  It’s bitter.”

She licked a tiny bit off her finger and made the appropriate “nasty” face.

How can something so incredibly delicious in everything we bake be so horrible on its own?

I pulled out the vanilla and she bravely tasted the tiniest droplet of that also, despite the grimace over the pumpkin.

Yup, vanilla doesn’t fair any better on its own.

She even smelled each of the spices before we measured them into the bowl.  It turns out that cloves, nutmeg and ginger are more potent than sweet and more pungent than enticing.

Photo courtesy of Viktor Janacek, picjumbo

Photo courtesy of Viktor Janacek, picjumbo

The eggs were runny, sticky and gross.

The salt was…well, salty.

All in all, it was utterly mystifying when we finished stirring and I handed her the spoon to lick, which she popped into her mouth with a muffled, “Yummmmm.”

The truth about baking is the truth about life.  We have a reason to be thankful for every ingredient, even the ones that seem too bitter or salty or potent to turn into anything mouth-watering and delicious.

As Christians, most of us have not only heard Romans 8:28 a million times, we’ve probably quoted it a few thousand times ourselves:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28 NKJV).

You may have even just skimmed through that verse just now because you’ve heard it so often and know it so well.

And yet, we tend to emphasize the “for good” part of this verse, which means we could be expecting instant pumpkin pie when life hands us a can of Libby’s pumpkin.

That job you lost, how can that be for good?

That time of sadness, that mourning, that separation and grief, the broken relationship and the conflict…..tastes so bitter.  It doesn’t seem possible for any of it to be “for good.”

Philosophically, we know the deal.  We’ve heard the sermons.  Maybe one day we’ll see how God turned these times of sadness and stress into blessing.  Maybe it won’t be until heaven, but at least then we’ll be able to see the good that came from the ugly.

It’s a long, hard lesson, realizing that “for good” doesn’t necessarily mean “right now” or “without pain.”

But it’s true, of course.  There are eternal perspectives and long-term visions that we just can’t see from our limited, finite looking glass on circumstances so up-close and personal.

There’s something about this verse that we often overlook, though.  God isn’t just working “for good,” He’s doing it so that “all things work together.” The good comes from the mixing of ingredients, the pooling together of the circumstances into one beautiful wholeness—His plan and will for Your life.

Rick Warren says it this way:

“The events in your life work together in God’s plan.  They are not isolated acts, but interdependent parts of the process to make you like Christ….If you will give God all your distasteful, unpleasant experiences, he will blend them together for good” (The Purpose Driven Life, p. 195).

I’ve had Thanksgivings where gratitude came easy, practically gushing out of me in response to blessing.

And there were years where thankfulness was a discipline of the soul, a determined trusting in God, a sacrifice of praise.

Regardless of whether this year is easy or harder for you, remember that the pumpkin, the eggs, the salt, the vanilla, the spices aren’t delicious on their own.  But trust–and give thanks–that God will bring everything together and it will be sweet and for your blessing and beyond what you could imagine.

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.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Lessons from the Theater, Part Three

This week, I’m sharing devotional thoughts based on my time working on a community theater production of Hello, Dolly! and today is the last post in the series.

You can read Lessons from the Theater: Part One here.
You can read Lessons from the Theater: Part Two here.

Lesson Three: This is All His Story

Looking at that stage, you would have thought that there were 40 stars in the show.

From the excitement as the town awaited the arrival of Dolly herself  . . .

to Red cross nurses, Prohibition protestors, and cutthroat politicians vying for every vote as they walked the parade route  . . .

to the chaotic melee of ladies knocking rabblerousers over the head with their tiny handbags . . .

to the scowling and crying in a courtroom scene . . .

you couldn’t tell at a glance who was telling the main story and who was telling an aside in the performance of Hello, Dolly!.

My husband says that everyone on the stage has the job of telling their story.  Some get to have a name and some dialogue.  Others don’t.  But no character thinks, “My story isn’t the focus here, so I can just fill in background space.”

Instead, the actors use every available tool to tell what they are doing there, what happened to bring them to this place and what they think about it.

Every actor acts as if his character’s story is the main story.

For us, though, one of the incredibly hard lessons in life is that we aren’t the main story.  In fact, this story isn’t our story at all; it’s God’s.

Chris Tiegreen wrote:

All of our life is a struggle between self-centeredness and God-centeredness.  We know our lives are supposed to revolve around Him and His will, yet we have so many personal dreams and goals.

It’s not that our story doesn’t matter to God or that He views us as just “one of the crowd,” a random human in a sea of human need.  To God, each person matters.  Each of us is a treasure.  Each of us is beloved and worthy of sacrifice.

Our personal story always matters to Him.

The difference, though, is that sometimes we think we know how this story of ours should play out and we don’t consider all the other people whose lives connect, overlap, and intertwine with our own.

So, how do we balance knowing that God desires intense involvement in our lives and also knowing that He desires the same for every other person on the world stage with us?

We check our prayers.

Self-centeredness for me almost always shows up in my prayer life.  I think I know.  I certainly know what my problems are.  Truth be told, mostly I think I know the perfect solutions, as well.

So, I tell God, “Here’s what’s happening to me and it’s yucky.  I’m hurting.  I need you to answer my prayer and provide and here’s how You can do that.”

The other day as I prayed, I actually found myself giving God a three-step strategy for helping me.  “Here are three ways that You can answer this request, God.  I don’t care which you pick or maybe You do all three, but I’m just laying out the options for You as I see them.”

Just in case our infinite, omnipotent, omniscient Creator God was out of ideas and needed a little help from me.

Are you horrified by my brazenness?  Astounded at my ridiculous posturing as a deity in my own right?

You should be!

How can I confine God to my limited understanding of reality?  By thinking that this is my story and not His!  By forgetting that He is always the main event, He is always the hero, and He always knows my true need and the best answer to my requests.

Sure, you can pray for that job, at the expense of someone else who really needs it and who God designed for it.  Or you can pray for the perfect job God has designed for you.

You can pray for that specific spouse who you just know God wants you to marry.  Or you can pray God brings you the perfect husband or wife at just the right time.

You can pray that God blesses your ministry efforts here.  Or you can pray that God directs your steps to the ministry He has designed for you.

We bring to Him our problem.  We leave the solutions up to Him.  That’s how we yield our story to His and allow Him full reign over our life’s direction.

This is why Paul doesn’t write Romans 8:28 as a stand-alone thought.  Sure, he told us that, “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”  It’s one of our favorite Scripture verses to quote to ourselves and to each other.

Yet, Paul had so much more to say about that in context.

The verses immediately before that say:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God (Romans 8:26-27).

Then, yes, when we’ve allowed the Spirit to intercede for us according to God’s will, He works everything out for our good.

And not just for our good.  But for the good of the person to our left and the one to our right and even those so far off to the side of the stage we can’t even see them. He sees us all and knows the perfect plan that will work for our benefit and for His glory.  We just need to submit our story to His and allow Him to occupy center stage in our lives at all times and in every situation.

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