Packing, PreOrdering and Preparing for Book and Baby

People keep asking me if I’m ready for my son to be born.

I think of the mostly empty duffel bag sitting on my bedroom floor and realize perhaps I need to take this countdown to my due date more seriously.

With my first baby, of course, I had a typed up birth plan and a printed list of important phone numbers weeks in advance.  We had faithfully attended childbirth classes and I packed my hospital bag neatly (with a checklist) at 36 weeks.  I created a ‘baby playlist’ and burned CD’s with relaxing music to help me in the delivery room.

The crib was up, car seat installed, dresser stocked, and diapers ready long before she was due to arrive.

And of course, she was a week late.

I’m just about two-and-a-half weeks away now from holding my baby boy, my fourth baby, and so far I’ve packed some socks, an electric teapot, a mug and some teabags.  Oh, and some slippers.

A girl has priorities.

The truth is that from that first positive pregnancy test and the week you sit all nervous on a doctor’s examination table waiting to see your baby pose for pictures for the first time, all fuzzy in black and white, wiggling limb buds with a heart beating so hard and so fast… you are in preparation.

You are waiting.

The life grows and sometimes it all rushes by so quickly.  Other times (like in those early days of nausea, morning sickness, and awkward weight gain where you don’t look pregnant, but you do look bigger) time creeps on and you feel like this….surely…..will….last……forever.

But it won’t, of course.

There’s the season of waiting and preparation.

Surely, it may have felt like one interminable case of waiting, waiting, waiting on God for Sarah.  But more than a decade after God’s initial promise to bless Abraham with a son, Sarah labored and delivered and then held her baby, Isaac, and she laughed with joy.

And a young teenage girl named Mary heard the news from angel—she’d bear a son, the Messiah, our Savior.  No double lines on a pregnancy test to confirm God’s promises, no appointment at the doctor’s office to test her hormone levels or laying back and waiting for an image on the ultrasound screen.

No, it was the leaping of John the Baptist in his own mother’s womb, the Holy Spirit dancing of an unborn babe, that told Mary life was in her, God’s life, long before her clothes stopped fitting and her hands and feet swelled.

Her waiting didn’t last forever, though.  A night in Bethlehem ended the anticipation and the expecting.

Birthing occurs.

All that God has been doing in the hidden places of the womb, the forming in the darkness, the creation we can’t see, pushes right out into the light.

Paul wrote in Galatians thatwhen the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship (Galatians 4:4-5 NIV).

The writer of Hebrews tells us: But [that appointed time came] when Christ (the Messiah) appeared as a High Priest of the better things that have come and are to come (Hebrews 9:11 AMP).

God’s appointed time comes.

Until then, we prepare, we trust, we pray, we obey the tiny steps and trust God with the results.  We marvel and praise Him for the signs that life is growing and maturing within us and it stirs up that hope, that expectancy that yes, God is at work here.

And while I’m packing that much-neglected hospital bag, I prepare in other ways for another kind of birth….ask-me-anything-lord_kd

One I can share with you.

So many have asked, so many of you have faithfully prayed, and here is the first sign that my book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Lives to God’s Questions, will be here soon.

It’s been a summer of editing and proofreading, of working with the publicist, and approving the copy.

Now, the book is available for preorder with a release date in November!

You can follow these links to find the book at Amazon,  Barnes and Noble and also at Christianbook.com.

You can click here to learn more about the book and what God has already done in the writing and preparing for publication.

You can click here to visit my Amazon Author Page.

An e-book version will be available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and the Apple store shortly after publication.

Thank you so much for praying, for encouraging, for blessing me in so many ways.  I am so grateful to God for each of you.

~heather~

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 on November 1, 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Weekend Walk, 01/14/2012

Hiding the Word:

It’s a scary world, isn’t it?  I read this morning of an Italian cruise ship that took on water and listed completely to the side, blocking the life boats.  They were rescuing passengers via helicopter and hoping to evacuate everyone.  As of now, dozens of people are still missing.

These travelers went on a vacation, a pleasure cruise, and ended up riding the Titanic.

Sometimes our life changes that rapidly.  We wake up fine.  By lunch, our world has twisted and contorted itself into knots of fear.

At other times it feels like we’re trapped on a sinking ship and even the life boats are under water.

This week, I’m meditating on verses that may not change circumstances, but help us to control our run-away thoughts and overwhelming terrors in any situation we face.  These verses build on the passage from last week, so I’ll list them all together here and bold the new section for this week.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.  (Philippians 4:4-9)

We continually (and perhaps with great effort) choose to rejoice in the Lord.  We deny anxiety and take every situation to God in prayer, being sure to give Him thanks.

We tighten the reins on our unruly thoughts and demand that they focus on what is true and right, pure, lovely, admirable . . . We don’t dwell on hypothetical horrors, the hidden monsters of what-ifs.

We think on what is true: God is faithful.  He is compassionate.  He is powerful.  He is love.

Then, yes then, “the God of peace will be with you.”

Weekend Rerun:

Nothing Too Difficult
Originally published 04/14/2011

“Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what He had promised
Genesis 21: 1 (NIV)

Last week, I stood in the checkout line at the grocery store with a week’s worth of food for my family all lined up on the conveyor belt.  I assured the cashier that I didn’t need my milk in a bag; it seemed like putting her through extra effort just to take the plastic bag home and recycle it.  “Not really,” she said, “What is a really big pain is people who bring 15 or more of those reusable bags and make me put cold stuff in one, cleaning stuff in another, bread and eggs separate.  Now, that takes forever.”

I nodded my head with understanding and sympathy.  Meanwhile, I was praying under my breath that she wouldn’t notice how my groceries were carefully categorized and organized as they headed to her scanner.

  • Heavy things first.
  • Nonperishables.
  • Cold items with meat and poultry separate.
  • Non-food items like cleaning supplies and personal care products.
  • Produce.
  • Bread and eggs.

What can I say?  I like my groceries bagged a certain way.  But, I don’t leave this to chance or pester the tired Wal-Mart cashier to organize my purchases for me.   No, I like to help things along.  Truly, I am trying to be considerate of the girl getting paid so little money to incessantly scan and bag during her entire work shift.  Organizing all my items saves her some time and effort.

But, there’s also something else.  I don’t believe that she would do it correctly if I didn’t categorize the items for her.  I don’t trust that she knows not to put my cereal with the yogurt or that my laundry detergent shouldn’t sit next to my chicken.

I don’t believe.  I don’t trust.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether I fully trust and believe in the professional skill of the girl checking out my groceries.  But, my unbelief and lack of trust seep into other areas of my life that should be in the hands of our thoroughly trustworthy God.  It’s a slow drip, drip, drip of anti-faith that I ignore until suddenly I’m drowning in a sea of uncertainty and gasping for air in a flood of my own making.

I pray for things and then make plans and decisions based on God NOT answering my prayers.

I lay at His feet my anxiety and concerns about situations and then snatch them back up later when His answer doesn’t come quickly enough.

I hover over His shoulder and share my opinion on the kind of job He is doing in my life.  Are you sure you want to put the pasta in that bag, God?  Don’t you think the cheese would be better next to the butter, God?   I think you could provide a bit better for me if you changed this about my job.  Don’t you think I’ve waited long enough, God?  Surely there’s a more efficient way of doing things.

I pester and nag and “help” and act like a know-it-all back seat driver.  Abraham’s wife, Sarah, had her moments of grasping for control just like I do.   She helped things along a little bit, made “suggestions” (demands), and pressed ahead with plans without considering consequences.

To be fair, Sarah waited years for God to fulfill His promises and patiently trusted that God would give Abraham a “son who is your own flesh and blood” (Genesis 16:16, NIV).  It may have even been thrilling and easy to believe at first.  A promise from God, a child, the deepest desire of her heart seen by Almighty God and assuredly in her future!  Surely she headed to the wilderness version of Babies ‘R Us and set up a registry just days after Abraham came home and told her what God had promised. Faith is easy when the promises are fresh.

But then nothing.  No pregnancy.  No baby.  Promises faded away.  Questions arose.  Cultural expectations weighed heavy on her.  Just about a decade after the original promise, Sarah’s faith finally buckled under the heavy weight of circumstantial evidence mounting up against God.  He hadn’t done what He had promised.  No baby was coming.  Sarah’s biological clock had ticked and tocked out and she clearly needed to step in and help God out a little bit.

And so the trouble begins.  A second wife for Abraham.  Conflict and abuse between Sarah and Hagar.  Runaway maidservant.  Ishmael born, son to Abraham, but not the child God had promised.

Thirteen years after Ishmael’s birth and about 24 years after the original promise, none of Sarah’s involvement, ideas, or attempts to help (or control) the situation had yielded results.

Yet, in all this time, God’s plans never changed.  His intent from the beginning was to birth an entire nation through Abraham and Sarah and He was willing to let Sarah reach the point of impossibility, of clear human failure, before fulfilling His promises.  She was past menopause, now 90 years old.  There was simply no possible earthly way for Sarah to bring forth the promised heir.

That’s what unbelief would say.  That’s what lack of trust would claim.

God is so gracious to us in our weakness, though.  He certainly was with Sarah.  He visited with Abraham again and reiterated the promise, this time with an added clarification—I believe it could only have been for Sarah’s benefit.  He told Abraham, “I will bless her (Sarah) and will surely give you a son by her.  I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her . . . your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac.”

Did you notice that subtle new bit of information in the promise?  The first time, God said that Abraham would have a son and heir.  This time, He clearly said to Abraham, “You know Sarah, as in your wife Sarah?  She will have a son by you.  Together.  Nobody else needs to be involved in this.  Just you and her.  Got it?”

And there was a promise for Sarah in this, too, a special notice by God, who called a childless woman in her 90s to be the Mother of Nations.  As kids we sang the silly song, “Father Abraham, had many sons, and many sons had father Abraham.”  Why don’t we ever sing about Sarah?  After all, the poor woman had to give birth to the promised child at 90 years of age with no epidural.  I think she deserves her own song!

Abraham and Sarah were nothing without God’s miraculous involvement in their lives.  “Look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth.  When I called him, he was but one, and I blessed him and made him many” (Isaiah 52:2, NIV).    Like Abraham, it is God’s blessing on us that multiples our lives into bounty and fulfillment.

Therefore our testimonies are not that we have accomplished much or attained great things in our own strength and ability. If Sarah had produced the promised heir through surrogate motherhood, fertility treatments or even naturally while her body was still ripe for childbearing, then there would have been no need for God’s personal touch.

As Beth Moore wrote, “If Isaac’s birth says anything at all, surely it says that nothing is too difficult for the Lord.”  That’s the question God asked Abraham while Sarah stood laughing in her tent over the promise of pregnancy in her old age.  “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14, NIV).  Isaac’s birth proves God’s possibilities even in impossible situations.

In Genesis 21:1, it beautifully says, “Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what He had promised (NIV).  And so He will for you.  God will do what He has promised.  And when He does, when He so graciously delivers you, He will receive all the glory and give you a testimony of miraculous provision so that others may believe and trust in a God for whom nothing is too difficult.

**********************************************************************************************************

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.

 

What about me?

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
Jeremiah 31:3

Last week, I needed to emphasize a life lesson and a character issue with my oldest daughter.  Leaning in close to her, nose to nose, I cradled her chin gently in my hand and met her gaze.   Her face was reddened by anger, her fists clenched tightly at her side, her body tense.  And I began with these whispered words, “I love you.”

Behind her, my youngest baby girl stood watching us intently.  When she heard my first words to oldest sister, my tiny one began bouncing up and down in excited anticipation.  With the limited vocabulary of “Mama, mama, mama!!” and her little dance, I knew what she meant.  She was saying, “Me next, Mom!  My turn!!!  What about me?  Do you love me, too?  Tell me you love me, too!”

Have you ever been the “other child” jumping up and down before God, trying to attract His attention?  Have you listened to a friend testify to the miracle God did for her and cried out, “Me next, God!”?  Have you sat silently in the corner of the small group room, listening to others talk about how God spoke to them, how He gave them this verse, how He told them to do something and wondered exactly what God’s voice sounded like?  Because you don’t know if you’ve ever even heard it.  So, you sit at your table with your Bible and journal and pen and say, “Okay, God, let’s get this You speaking to me thing started!”  And you read God’s Word.  And that’s it.  No lightning strikes or neon signs for you.

Then you ask
What about me, God?
I know You “so loved the world,” but do You love me?
I know You “know the plans” You have for people, but do You have a plan for me?
I know You are “The God Who Sees,” but do You ever see me, one tiny person on this planet of people?

There are those times, even for those of us who have walked with God for decades, when we hear silence from heaven and our prayers, heartfelt and constant as they are, remain seemingly unanswered.  We’ve checked our hearts; it’s not sin blocking God from our view.  And so we dance for Him, we wave our hands at heaven, we remain on our knees a little longer, we press in a little closer—all so that He will get personal with us.  Not general love.  Specific love.  Not universal plans.  Personal plans.  Not just words on a page.  A message designed for us.

When I read the account of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar, I wonder if Sarah was doing her own jig before God and asking “What about me?”  Walk through this story with me and you’ll see what I mean.

In Genesis 15, God came to Abraham and promised him a flesh-and-blood heir and offspring as numerous as the innumerable stars in the sky (Genesis 15:4-5).  But God was silent about Sarah.  As far as the promise stood, Abraham could have fathered the child of promise through anyone.  From Sarah’s perspective, Abraham was the chosen and anointed one and she was the barren wife standing in the way.

In Genesis 16, moved by a desire to see God’s promise fulfilled, Sarah steps aside, asks Abraham to marry her maidservant Hagar and he does.  When Hagar, so easily pregnant while Sarah had spent decades with negative pregnancy tests, began to mock her mistress, Sarah threw her out.  Forget this surrogate motherhood thing.  Sarah decided no heir was better than an upstart maidservant with a baby on her hip.

There in the wilderness on the way back to Egypt, God appears to Hagar.  He tells her to name this son Ishmael and adds, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count” (Genesis 16:10).

Can you imagine what Hagar’s homecoming reception must have been like for Sarah?  She stood by while Hagar announced that not only was she carrying Abraham’s child, but that it would be a son and his name was picked out by God and he was promised numerous descendants.

Sounds like the answer to the promise to me.  It probably sounded that way to Sarah, too.  God appeared to Abraham and blessed him.  God appeared to Hagar, the Egyptian slave girl, and blessed her.  Sarah stood in the corner appearing overlooked and pushed aside.

In Genesis 17, God reappears to Abraham and clarifies the promise, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah.  I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her” (Genesis 17:16).

I know you’re thinking, “It’s about time” because I certainly am!  The funny thing is, Abraham didn’t seem to bother telling Sarah anything about this.  He kept this astounding promise to himself while she was still waiting to be noticed.

Finally, in Genesis 18, the Lord personally visited Abraham’s camp and asked one important question before making any more statements of promise—“Where is your wife Sarah?”  This was no message just for Abraham.  This was no promise meant for everyone other than Sarah.  No, God called out her name to get her attention, to make sure she was listening at the flaps of her tent before He said anything else.  Then, once He knew she was poised to hear, He gave the promise, spoken for her benefit—“I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”

She laughed!  It seemed unbelievable that God could include her in this promise, a promise so outside the realm of physical possibility. If Abraham had told her about God’s latest visit to him, maybe Sarah would have been prepared for this, but instead she was surprised, even taken off guard and skeptical.  After all this time, it must have seemed like God’s promises were for everyone but her, that He appeared to others but not to her, and that He had a plan for everyone except Sarah.

And yet God had a plan for her, a blessing for her, a message just for her.

He does for you, as well.  Heaven might seem silent at the moment.  You may see God at work in the lives of others and feel His absence in your own circumstances.  God, however, is a personal God, with a plan, a blessing, a message  just for you.  “Though it linger, wait for it;  it will certainly come and will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:3).


*****************************************************************************************************

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

Nothing Too Difficult

“Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what He had promised
Genesis 21: 1 (NIV)

Last week, I stood in the checkout line at the grocery store with a week’s worth of food for my family all lined up on the conveyor belt.  I assured the cashier that I didn’t need my milk in a bag; it seemed like putting her through extra effort just to take the plastic bag home and recycle it.  “Not really,” she said, “What is a really big pain is people who bring 15 or more of those reusable bags and make me put cold stuff in one, cleaning stuff in another, bread and eggs separate.  Now, that takes forever.”

I nodded my head with understanding and sympathy.  Meanwhile, I was praying under my breath that she wouldn’t notice how my groceries were carefully categorized and organized as they headed to her scanner.

  • Heavy things first.
  • Nonperishables.
  • Cold items with meat and poultry separate.
  • Non-food items like cleaning supplies and personal care products.
  • Produce.
  • Bread and eggs.

What can I say?  I like my groceries bagged a certain way.  But, I don’t leave this to chance or pester the tired Wal-Mart cashier to organize my purchases for me.   No, I like to help things along.  Truly, I am trying to be considerate of the girl getting paid so little money to incessantly scan and bag during her entire work shift.  Organizing all my items saves her some time and effort.

But, there’s also something else.  I don’t believe that she would do it correctly if I didn’t categorize the items for her.  I don’t trust that she knows not to put my cereal with the yogurt or that my laundry detergent shouldn’t sit next to my chicken.

I don’t believe.  I don’t trust.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether I fully trust and believe in the professional skill of the girl checking out my groceries.  But, my unbelief and lack of trust seep into other areas of my life that should be in the hands of our thoroughly trustworthy God.  It’s a slow drip, drip, drip of anti-faith that I ignore until suddenly I’m drowning in a sea of uncertainty and gasping for air in a flood of my own making.

I pray for things and then make plans and decisions based on God NOT answering my prayers.

I lay at His feet my anxiety and concerns about situations and then snatch them back up later when His answer doesn’t come quickly enough.

I hover over His shoulder and share my opinion on the kind of job He is doing in my life.  Are you sure you want to put the pasta in that bag, God?  Don’t you think the cheese would be better next to the butter, God?   I think you could provide a bit better for me if you changed this about my job.  Don’t you think I’ve waited long enough, God?  Surely there’s a more efficient way of doing things.

I pester and nag and “help” and act like a know-it-all back seat driver.  Abraham’s wife, Sarah, had her moments of grasping for control just like I do.   She helped things along a little bit, made “suggestions” (demands), and pressed ahead with plans without considering consequences.

To be fair, Sarah waited years for God to fulfill His promises and patiently trusted that God would give Abraham a “son who is your own flesh and blood” (Genesis 16:16, NIV).  It may have even been thrilling and easy to believe at first.  A promise from God, a child, the deepest desire of her heart seen by Almighty God and assuredly in her future!  Surely she headed to the wilderness version of Babies ‘R Us and set up a registry just days after Abraham came home and told her what God had promised. Faith is easy when the promises are fresh.

But then nothing.  No pregnancy.  No baby.  Promises faded away.  Questions arose.  Cultural expectations weighed heavy on her.  Just about a decade after the original promise, Sarah’s faith finally buckled under the heavy weight of circumstantial evidence mounting up against God.  He hadn’t done what He had promised.  No baby was coming.  Sarah’s biological clock had ticked and tocked out and she clearly needed to step in and help God out a little bit.

And so the trouble begins.  A second wife for Abraham.  Conflict and abuse between Sarah and Hagar.  Runaway maidservant.  Ishmael born, son to Abraham, but not the child God had promised.

Thirteen years after Ishmael’s birth and about 24 years after the original promise, none of Sarah’s involvement, ideas, or attempts to help (or control) the situation had yielded results.

Yet, in all this time, God’s plans never changed.  His intent from the beginning was to birth an entire nation through Abraham and Sarah and He was willing to let Sarah reach the point of impossibility, of clear human failure, before fulfilling His promises.  She was past menopause, now 90 years old.  There was simply no possible earthly way for Sarah to bring forth the promised heir.

That’s what unbelief would say.  That’s what lack of trust would claim.

God is so gracious to us in our weakness, though.  He certainly was with Sarah.  He visited with Abraham again and reiterated the promise, this time with an added clarification—I believe it could only have been for Sarah’s benefit.  He told Abraham, “I will bless her (Sarah) and will surely give you a son by her.  I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her . . . your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac.”

Did you notice that subtle new bit of information in the promise?  The first time, God said that Abraham would have a son and heir.  This time, He clearly said to Abraham, “You know Sarah, as in your wife Sarah?  She will have a son by you.  Together.  Nobody else needs to be involved in this.  Just you and her.  Got it?”

And there was a promise for Sarah in this, too, a special notice by God, who called a childless woman in her 90s to be the Mother of Nations.  As kids we sang the silly song, “Father Abraham, had many sons, and many sons had father Abraham.”  Why don’t we ever sing about Sarah?  After all, the poor woman had to give birth to the promised child at 90 years of age with no epidural.  I think she deserves her own song!

Abraham and Sarah were nothing without God’s miraculous involvement in their lives.  “Look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth.  When I called him, he was but one, and I blessed him and made him many” (Isaiah 52:2, NIV).    Like Abraham, it is God’s blessing on us that multiples our lives into bounty and fulfillment.

Therefore our testimonies are not that we have accomplished much or attained great things in our own strength and ability. If Sarah had produced the promised heir through surrogate motherhood, fertility treatments or even naturally while her body was still ripe for childbearing, then there would have been no need for God’s personal touch.

As Beth Moore wrote, “If Isaac’s birth says anything at all, surely it says that nothing is too difficult for the Lord.”  That’s the question God asked Abraham while Sarah stood laughing in her tent over the promise of pregnancy in her old age.  “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14, NIV).  Isaac’s birth proves God’s possibilities even in impossible situations.

In Genesis 21:1, it beautifully says, “Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what He had promised (NIV).  And so He will for you.  God will do what He has promised.  And when He does, when He so graciously delivers you, He will receive all the glory and give you a testimony of miraculous provision so that others may believe and trust in a God for whom nothing is too difficult.

***********************************************************************************************************

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

Traveling Companions

On Tuesday nights, I sit at a table with other women, Bibles open.  We ask—What’s going on in your life?  What does the Bible say?  Where are you headed?  Where have you been?  What do you need?  How can I pray for you?

It’s a safe place, an encouraging place, a challenging place, a growing place, a grace place, a truth place.

I love these women, each so uniquely designed by God with pasts so different, but hope in Christ the same.  They are my traveling companions.

And this is what we need, really.  Community.  Strength from relationships.  Just how far would Naomi have made it in her travels if Ruth hadn’t insisted on packing a bag for the journey, too?  Naomi —A hurt woman, weighed by age and life, far from her homeland, changing her name to Mara—“Bitterness”— and trekking back to her people, her nation, her God.  Widow Naomi.   Now childless Naomi.  Without Ruth, Naomi would probably have been buried along the pathway, lost and alone.  With Ruth, came strength, companionship, blessing.  A new home.  Food from Ruth’s work gleaning in the fields.  Redemption by Kinsman-Redeemer Boaz through Ruth’s marriage.  And a place in the lineage of King David, of Jesus, through Ruth and Boaz’s son.

All because of tenacious friendship, of shared pain and faith, of the self-sacrifice of one friend to another.

Then there’s Elijah.  The bold and courageous prophet who, in the showdown of all showdowns against 450 prophets of Baal, had demonstrated God’s glory before all the people of Israel.  Fire from heaven consumed a sacrifice soaked and an altar pouring over with water.   The people “fell prostrate and cried, ‘The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!'” (1 Kings 18:39, NIV).

Immediately after this victory, Queen Jezebel threatens to kill him and “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.  When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness” (1 Kings 19:3-4, NIV).

Elijah’s mistake was in the traveling alone.  He ran to Beersheba—the southernmost portion of the land—and then he left his servant and ran for another whole day by himself.  Alone.  No companion to speak truth into his heart.  No friend to share his burden and pray with him and point him back to God.  No accountability.  No encouragement.  No truth-speaking.  No love.

It’s what happens when we journey without a traveling companion.

And so Elijah sat on a mountain, dejected, depressed, overcome with fear and grief and bitterness.  God met him in that place, talked him out of the cave and down off the precipice.  The very next thing God did was give him a friend.

So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat . . . Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him…Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant (1 Kings 19:19-21, NIV).

Elijah needed Elisha.  Partner, friend, servant, apprentice.

Not just any traveling companion will do, though.  Who we walk with determines where we go.  Some make the journey harder or full of obstacles or lead us astray to shortcuts and paths unknown.

Just ask Abraham.

Abram and Sarah didn’t set out for Canaan alone.

Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there.   Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Harran (Genesis 11:31-32, NIV).

God called Abram out of Ur, told him to pack his bags and get going on a journey at God’s direction.  And Abram obeyed, taking his father, Terah, and his nephew, Lot.  But, something happened along the way.  It’s a mysterious blank.  We can’t peek into the windows of the family tent and overhear the discussion.  Something happened and they stopped before reaching their destination. 

They didn’t just check in for an overnight rest in the Motel 8.  They settled there.  And when Abram’s dad passed away, that’s when the journey began again.  That’s when God called Abram once more and told him to keep moving forward on the path that had so mysteriously been interrupted.

Sometimes our traveling companions convince us to settle with less than God’s promises.  They look around at what the world has to offer and find fertile land and a good place to dwell. Pitching their tents, they urge us to make this our home.  Not God’s best, perhaps, not all that God has planned for us, but surely good enough.

The Apostle Paul, though, knew how to choose a traveling buddy.  Paul with Silas, singing praises in the prison in the night.  Paul with Barnabus–the Encourager—set aside for ministry to the Gentiles.  Paul and Timothy–building a church, building church leadership.

And Paul and Titus.  In 2 Corinthians 7:5-6, Paul wrote to the church, “For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn–conflicts on the outside, fears within.   But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus” (NIV).

Paul was the apostle who told us all things work for the good, to rejoice always and again rejoice, to be content in all circumstances, that God can supply all our needs, and do abundantly and immeasurably more than our wildest dreams.

Still, Paul was frightened at times, too.   Just like you and me, he had his moments.  God didn’t punish Paul for lack of faith or chastise his weakness.  Instead, God provided for a need.  Paul needed a traveling companion to bring comfort and encouragement in dark days.  Titus was God’s answer to Paul’s fear.

Paul knew this truly.  He usually traveled in partnership.  He had written: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ… for each one should carry their own load” (Galatians 6:2, 5, NIV).

It seems contradictory at first.  Carry each other’s burdens.  Each one carry their own load.  But there’s a difference here.  Paul says each one of us should do our own daily load of life, the everyday, the things we can handle.  Do it yourself.  Don’t lay your everyday over the back of someone else and kick back and relax while they struggle.

Burdens, though, are meant to be borne in partnership.  In community with each other, we lift up onto four shoulders what is far too heavy for just two.

That’s the way God designed us—to travel together.  Ruth with Naomi.  Elijah with Elisha.  Paul with Titus, with Silas, with Barnabas, with Timothy.  You and me, heading to Canaan, to Christ-likeness, to abundant life, shifting burdens onto backs along the way and laying them down at the cross together.  Alone we will not make it.   Together, though, we journey past obstacles, depression, fear, and discouragement, to our hoped-for destination, our Promised Land.

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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

Strings Tied Around My Finger

I had a crisis moment the other night.  When I was reading the Bible, it reminded me of something I had read and copied into my journal a few years ago.  So, I pulled out my recent journals and the one I needed was missing.

This might not seem huge to you, but it was sad and frustrating and a little worrying to me.  My journals aren’t personal diaries of my experiences and feelings.  They are records of the verses, quotes, prayers and thoughts I’ve had as God interacts with my life.  Oftentimes, I can vividly remember exactly where I was and what was happening in my life when I wrote an entry in my prayer journal.

The entry I was looking for that night was written while sitting at the Ben & Jerry’s in Yorktown, Virginia, eating a scoop of chocolate peanut butter ice cream on an incredibly sunny day.  I was struggling with some ministry issues and I copied down a quote from David Crowder’s book, Praise Habit, that encouraged me.  Of course, what really helps me remember this particular entry is the ice cream!

Losing my journal is like losing some of my testimony, the written record I keep of God at work in my life.   In the Bible, many of God’s people created monuments or kept mementos of times when God rescued them.  It was their way of remembering that God saved us then and He can save us again.

Samuel the prophet did this in 1 Samuel 7:12:  “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.”  We often sing the hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing without realizing that when it says, “Here I raise my Ebenezer,” it’s referring to this monument Samuel created.  Literally, it means “a stone of help.”

Samuel’s stone reminded Israel of how God delivered them when they repented and returned to Him.  After rebelling against God and being punished as a result, “then all the people of Israel turned back to the LORD” (1 Samuel 7:2, NIV).  Following this new beginning, this repentance and restoration, God routed the enemy Philistines in a mighty and miraculous way.  All of Israel could see that God was faithful to save them as long as they walked in obedience.

But Samuel didn’t want the people to forget what God did in that place.  We humans are forgetful creatures.  God saves us.  We praise Him.  Things are good for a while.  Then a crisis occurs and we fret, we worry, we wonder, “Is God going to let me down this time?”

We need a string around our finger to help us remember who God is.  We need an Ebenezer, a record of what God has done, so when life is hard and we need healing and provision and intervention, we can look at the monuments of the past and say, “Look what God did for me.  He saved me here, and here, and here—-and He’ll do it again.”

That’s one reason our testimonies are so important.  It’s our way of reminding ourselves and encouraging others that God is still at work in people’s lives.  Every once in a while, our pastor takes the microphone around the church and we listen to others share, at first a little hesitantly, and then with great emotion and boldness, about how God has been real to them.   I love those Sundays because the testimony of others–their Ebenezer–reveals God to me.

The Bible is like “testimony” time to me also.  God passes the microphone around and different people share how God changed them.  Jonah gets up and says, “See, I’ve been struggling with obedience lately, but God . . .”  Sarah says, “I have something to confess.  Sometimes I like to ‘help’ God out with His plans, but God . . . ”  Mary says, “I was just a really simple, God-fearing girl, but God . . . ”

All these people in the Bible are broken, sinful, and imperfect, just like me, and yet they encountered God.  Their testimonies help me remember not just what God has done in my life, but what He has done in others’ lives throughout history.

Eugene Peterson wrote:

With a biblical memory, we have two thousand years of experience from which to make the off-the-cuff responses that are required each day in the life of faith.  If we are going to live adequately and maturely as the people of God, we need more data to work from than our own experience can give us.

Our lives are short.  Our experience with God is just a fraction of His activity here on earth.  So, when we look at life through the filter of our personal experiences alone, we miss out on what the Bible offers us.  By reading Scripture, we tap into 2000 years of people experiencing God.  We read the testimonies of people who lived a long time ago and find out they needed God as much as we do and He loved them and cared for them just as He loves and cares for us.

Thankfully, I found my missing journal the next day and—amazingly, if not miraculously—it was flipped open to the exact page I was looking for.

I hope you find ways this week to create Ebenezers in your life–a prayer journal,  testimony book or verse cards.  Don’t stop there, though.  Connect with other Christians who can share their testimonies, through church, small groups, community Bible studies, and by reading Christian books.  Then, dig deep into God’s Word and read it as if it were a testimony time of the saints written just for you.  All of these things will serve as strings tied around your finger, physical reminders of what God has done and what He will continue to do.

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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

Do You See?

Yesterday, I was thinking about how sometimes we disappoint God, but He still always loves us.

Today, I’m thinking about the times when God disappoints us.

Now, I know that ultimately in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, NIV).  I know He loves us and He promises never to leave us.   If I really consider it, I don’t really want a God who is small enough to fit into my finite understanding of how things should be.  If all God did for me was give me what I want, He’d be nothing more than a prayer vending machine rather than an all-powerful, all-knowing God whose plans and ways are much higher than mine.

Still, life is hard.  There’s no sidestepping that fact.  Little kids have cancer, people lose jobs and homes, husbands die, marriages are broken, bank accounts are empty.  And, if we’re being honest, we may very well feel confused, frustrated, hurt and disappointed by what God is doing because we can’t always see Him working in our circumstances.

It’s okay to be honest with God.  He’s big enough to handle the hard questions and gracious enough to allow us to bring all of those hurts to Him, rather than us having to hide them away under our “happy Christian face.”

In the midst of the hard times, I have personally asked God three questions.

  • Do You see?
  • Are You big enough?
  • Do You love me enough?

Do You See?

I have asked God before, “Do you see what I’m going through?  Do you know that I’m waiting and struggling here?’

In Genesis 16, we see that Hagar, the maidservant of Sarai (later renamed Sarah), felt very much the same way.   After Abram and Sarai had waited for over a decade for God to give them their promised child, Sarai finally decided God needed some help.  So, she did what any woman following the customs of that time and culture would do—she gave her maidservant to her husband as a second wife.  The problem is, that was never God’s plan for Abram and Sarai.

When Hagar did get pregnant and started treating her mistress with haughty disrespect as a result, Sarai was humiliated and angry.  She told Abram: “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me” (Genesis 16:5).

That’s one angry mistress!  Sarai took all that anger out on Abram and Hagar.  The Bible says that Abram just let Sarai do whatever she wanted to Hagar (“Do with her whatever you think best”), so in her anger, she “mistreated Hagar” and Hagar ran away (Genesis 16:6).

So, here’s Hagar, pregnant, beaten by her mistress, and now fleeing through the desert.

It might seem like God would only concern Himself with the main characters in this story–Abram and his wife, Sarai, who would be the parents of the Hebrew nation.  We might not expect God to care about the Egyptian maidservant caught up in all this drama, but it says He found her near a spring in the desert, gave her instructions to return home, and promised to bless her descendants.

Then—in such an amazing way—Scripture tells us, “She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me” (Genesis 16:13, NIV).

God has names throughout Scripture that describe His attributes—The Lord our Healer, Peace, Everlasting Father, Our Provider, The Lord Our Banner, etc.

But, I find it so special that this hurting woman, a woman overlooked and mistreated by other people, a woman who wasn’t even a Hebrew–but an Egyptian–was allowed to give God the very first “name” in Scripture–-The God Who Sees Me.

Be assured that God sees you, also.  He knows exactly where you are in the wilderness.  Just as He did for Hagar, He has a plan and purpose for you and as you yield to Him, He will fulfill it.

I’ll tackle the other two questions—Are You big enough? and Do You love me enough? later.  Stay tuned!

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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