What’s My Motivation?

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12

It’s typically the actor’s question.  What’s my motivation?

Even though I’m not an actor, I’ve been asking myself the same thing.

Or perhaps it isn’t me asking at all, but God who is nudging my heart.

It’s when I worship.  What is my motivation for singing now?
It’s when I serve.  What is my motivation for this ministry?
It’s when I do Mom things and Wife things.  What is my motivation for caring for my family in this way?
It’s when I speak and write.  What is my motivation for saying this?

It’s easy to feel at times that our behavior and actions are all that matter, thinking that what we do pleases God.

And if that was the true test, maybe some of us would be earning easy A’s in this life.

God, however, is always more interested in our heart than in the activity of our hands. 

The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind,
to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve” (Jeremiah 17:10).  Our conduct and deeds are not judged on their own.  Instead, God penetrates the closed-off, hidden portions of our hearts and minds.  He seeks out our motivation for all that we do.

He asks questions.

In Mark 10, two brothers and a blind man both came to Jesus with requests and instead of performing immediate miracles or making instant promises, Jesus asked them each the same question.

It’s a question that’s all about motives.

James and John, the fiery sons of Zebedee, started out tentatively, “‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘we want you to do for us whatever we ask.'”

Jesus was no fool.  He asked them for specifics.  “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:36).

What could their request be?  What was their deep-down true desire?  What motivated their service?

For these two brothers, the truth was an ugly one. They desired self-exaltation and personal glory.  “They replied, ‘Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory” (Mark 10:37).

We serve because of the attention and praise it brings.  We want to be told how great we are and to feel proud of being your followers!  We want to be your right and left-hand guys, with all of the power and status that entails.

Jesus denied their request, teaching the disciples instead that God’s Kingdom doesn’t function with the same hierarchy as earthly realms.

“Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43-45).

Does a desire for attention and praise motivate us in the same way?  If you allowed God to ask you that question right now—What do you want me to do for you?—how would you answer?

Would you want material provision?
Would you want physical comfort or worldly success?
Would you want to feel like the best mom, wife, employee, daughter, friend?
Would you desire ministry impact and, if so, for what purpose—to feed your pride, to make you feel valued, to give you special status in God’s Kingdom?

Or do you desire His glory?  Do you desire greater intimacy with God?
Do you long to see?

That’s what blind Bartimaeus wanted.  Just verses after Jesus’s motivational chat with James and John, Jesus met this blind beggar.

When he heard that Jesus was in town, Bartimaeus cried out loudly in desperation.  He shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47)

Have mercy!  That means, “I know I don’t deserve anything from You, but I ask because You are compassionate.”

Daniel prayed in this same way when he said, “We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy” (Daniel 9:18).

From the beginning, Bartimaeus’s request was different than the Zebedee brothers, who asked for status in heaven because they felt their earthly service merited it.

But Bartimaeus knew we don’t earn God’s gifts to us.

So the blind man screamed out for Jesus’s attention and Jesus, hearing his cries, called Bartimaeus over.  Then He asked the question: What do you want me to do for you? (Mark 10:51).

What was it Bartimaeous wanted?  A place in Jesus’ kingdom?  A seat near the throne in heaven?  A place in Jesus’ inner circle here on earth now?

No.  “The blind man said, ‘Rabbi, I want to see.” (Mark 10:51).

Immediately, Jesus healed him because of his faith. Then Bartimaeus did the only thing possible when Christ delivers you; he followed Jesus down the road.

What do you want God to do for you?  How painful this question can truly be when we allow Him to weigh our motives, revealing the impurities there.

Are we seeking God’s glory in all things?  Are we longing and searching to see God in every situation?  Or are we out for ourselves, for what we think we need, for what will fulfill us, for what will make us happy, and for what will satisfy our pride?

What’s your motivation?

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

Blessings in Sticky Keys

“For You make him to be blessed and a blessing forever; You make him exceedingly glad with the joy of Your presence.”
Psalm 21: 6

I have a piano.
I have young children.
I’m trusting you can fill in blanks, use your imagination, put two and two together and figure out what all that means.

A few months ago, I sat down to play a song and noticed a key was sticking.  By the second page of music, the key wasn’t sticking anymore; it was downright stuck. Beautiful notes . . . beautiful notes . . . beautiful notes . . . thunk.

This has made my musical life difficult.

Then, there are the piano lessons for these young daughters of mine.  The offending key is not one of the mostly unnecessary ivories on the end of the keyboard.  Oh no; it is an oh-so-necessary note for any song not in C position.  So, I pulled out method book upon method book, recital books, beaten up and falling apart books covered in pencil marks from when I first learned to play.  My daughter played every single song in C position I owned on this overstuffed musical shelf of mine.  All this to avoid the offending key.

Finally, I broke down and called about repairs.  I held my breath waiting to hear how much this fix-it job would cost and then I heard the magic word: Free.

Free I tell you!!  The manufacturer recalled the keyboard on this piano because of sticky keys.  And so I danced around my living room and gave thanks to God for this blessing.  This tiny kiss from God and sweet reminder that He cares not just about the heavy burdens I carry, but also the daily annoyances and petty frustrations.

It’s a moment of visibility, the clear and unmistakable hand of God even when we are busy and rushed and overwhelmed.  It’s a flash of His glory amidst darkness, making us breathless with the beautiful and captivating mercy of it all.

But, then there are the not-so-visible blessings.  The ones we must squint to see or perhaps can only be seen in flashbacks.  While we’re in the pit and trapped in the mire, God’s hand is invisible, His blessings unclear.  Yet, when God has lifted us up, washed us clean, taken our hand and led us forward on the journey, we can then throw a glance at the past and see the shadows of grace and blessing that we missed before.

Sometimes we know a blessing when we see it; sometimes we don’t.

Genesis 49 tells a story of blessing.  Aged Jacob calls his 11 sons to his side to tell them “what will happen . . . in days to come” (Genesis 49:1).  One by one, Jacob blesses each son.

Some of those words are obvious blessings.  Like for Judah: “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet” (Genesis 49:10).  And for Zebulun: “will live by the seashore and become a haven for ships; his border will extend toward Sidon (Genesis 49:13).  And for Joseph: “Your father’s blessings are greater than the blessings of the ancient mountains, than the bounty of the age-old hills. Let all these rest on the head of Joseph, on the brow of the prince among his brothers(Genesis 49:26).

Then there are other prophecies for other sons.  Commentator Bruce Waltke called these “antiblessings.”

Like for Reuben:”Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel” (Genesis 49:4).  And for Simeon and Levi: “Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel! I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel” (Genesis 49:7).

Antiblessings.  Maybe they even sound like curses from a dying father to his sons.  And yet blessings they are called.

Have you ever walked through something that seemed like a curse, only to find later it was truly a blessing?

Bruce Waltke explained:

In terms of the nation’s destiny these antiblessings are a blessing.  By demoting Reuben for his turbulence and uncontrolled sex drive, Jacob saves Israel from reckless leadership. Likewise, by cursing the cruelty of Simeon and Levi, he restricts their cruel rashness from dominating.

Beth Moore in The Patriarchs says, “We might call these blessings of restriction. . . .Both what we receive and what we don’t receive can constitute blessings for us and those around us.  God is all-wise.  He blesses us as surely by what He does not grant as what He does.

I have received these blessings that are only visible in memory.  At 13, I decided where I would go to college.  I worked.  I saved my money.  Years passed and I reluctantly applied to other schools along with this college, fully believing those extra applications were simply a waste of time and money.  I only toured my dream school.  I auditioned for the piano teacher of my choice.  I sought out a mentor in the Theory and Composition Department.  I went to the open house.

And then, I couldn’t go.  It was a resounding, clear “No” in the most nearly audible voice I have ever heard from God.

It seemed like a curse.  He didn’t give me the “desire of my heart.”  I was depressed, lost, confused, broken.  Listlessly, I started classes at the one college I simply did not want to attend.

And I grew.  I changed my major.  I met my husband.  My career path altered.

Abundant blessings grew out of the antiblessing.

Has God told you, “No?”  Has He delayed in giving you what you’ve asked for?  Have you been buried in circumstances that seem like curses?

Maybe that’s what you’re living through now or maybe it’s what you’ve experienced in the past. Either way, it may be hard to see a purpose or plan in all of this.

Allow God to peel back the layers of hurt and frustration and reveal underneath all of that the blessing that’s so hard to see.  Ask Him to open your eyes to see His grace at work even in heartache and loss.  It’s there, my friend, the blessing, though hidden perhaps, is there.  “Salvation belongs to the Lord; May Your blessing be upon Your people” (Psalm 3: 8)

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.

My eyes were opened

Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him
Luke 24:31

This morning, I was rushing around getting everyone ready to go.  We felt late, very late, so I was moving particularly fast.  I stood at my bathroom sink, grabbed up my toothbrush, pushed on the water and looked down for the toothpaste.  No toothpaste.  I scanned the area around the sink.  No toothpaste.  I yanked open the drawer.  Nope, not there either.  I was about to interrogate my children about the identity of the toothpaste thief when I saw it . . .on the counter.  I had been looking directly at it and yet for some reason my eyes didn’t see the tube that was clearly marked “toothpaste” and my brain didn’t register its presence.

Sometimes I can be looking directly at God and still not recognize Him at work in my life.

The Psalmist wrote, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”  And so I’m praying today—open my eyes, Lord.  Don’t let me miss out on Your presence, Your activity, Your grace, or Your voice made clear to me through Scripture.

Are you looking for God today?  Here’s where I have seen Him.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 
Jeremiah 29:13


My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, LORD, I will seek.
Psalm 27:8


One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. 
Psalm 27:4

Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always
1 Chronicles 16:11

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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

Shelter in the Storm, Part I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also on my list, though:

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

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

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

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

I Want to See

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

Forget Not

“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.  I will consider all Your works and meditate on all Your mighty deeds.”
Psalm 77:11-12

Today, a dear friend of mine is celebrating with her husband, a job after a period of unemployment.  She is rejoicing in God’s faithful provision, His heart so full to pour out blessings and to meet needs as we look to Him for help.

Today, I remember that same celebration happening in this home.  God brought water forth from rock, something out of nothing, during months of unemployment.  Then, the phone rang on a busy spring day and I stood motionless in the kitchen, keeping all children quiet, as my husband accepted a job—provision so perfect, timing just right.  In that moment, a spotlight shone on God’s activity in our lives and we saw with unmistakable and rare clarity God at work.

Now, years later, I sometimes still remember to thank God for this job wrapped up in paper decorated with God’s handprints and topped with a bow showing off God’s grace.

I remember wanting so desperately to see God in the midst of our need, waking up in the still-dark hours of a frigid morning, leaving children and husband asleep, and driving to church in silence on Resurrection Day, when God forever declared His ability to bring life from death.  Then, with fellow Christ-seekers, crowding around a rough wooden cross stuck into ground, singing a hymn, reading Scripture, watching the sun rise over the river.  Hearing the pastor: “God knows why you have come here and what it is you are looking for. ” I caught my breath.  God met me in the sunrise at a cross.

I remember.

I flip through the pages of my journal from that time, each covered margin-to-margin with God’s promises, encouragements, and challenges—to trust Him, to stop whining and complaining, to be grateful, to know He is in control.  It’s a record of my spiritual growth, tracked on paper like marks on a wall showing how tall I was then, and then, and then—a growth spurt caused by required dependence on a God so dependable.

I remember.

I pull out my favorite pair of shoes, white and covered in colorful flowers, shoes I bought after my husband’s first paycheck at his new job.  Bought on clearance at Target, they were inexpensive and yet totally precious to me.  My “James-got-a-job shoes.”  Every time I wear them . . . I remember.

Jennifer Rothschild wrote, “Remembering is a discipline that takes effort and focus.”

After all, I’m a forgetful creature.  I walk into a room with an agenda, quickly get distracted by toys and books.  Mess, mess–always mess.  How do we make so much mess?  So, I tidy and busy myself (while whining and complaining) and then leave the room empty handed.  My original purpose long forgotten. What did I come in here for again?

I trek to the grocery store with one item I really and truly need and walk back out with ten items in my cart, none of them the one vital ingredient for tonight’s dinner.

I start sentences and then somewhere in the middle lose track of thoughts and words and trail off into silence.

Worrying at night over bills and forgetting past provision.  Fretting over children and forgetting His past activity.  Stressing over a decision and forgetting how He led me through dark and shadowy places before.

It’s an enigma really.  Words spoken and things seen that I long to forget replay in my mind with troubling regularity.  Life necessities and God’s promises that I simply must remember, I forget with ease and . . . troubling regularity.

I’m not alone.  Over and over, in broken record style, God told the Israelites to remember what He had done, to recollect the miracles of their past, and over and over they forgot.   He tells them, “You have forgotten God your Savior.  You have not remembered the Rock, your fortress” (Isaiah 17:10, NIV).

They tried, really tried.  Joshua commanded 12 men from 12 tribes to hoist 12 stones from the dry bed of the Jordan River onto their shoulders, carrying reminders of a miracle as the nation crossed through.   Stone memorials to

“be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’  Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.  And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever” (Joshua 4:5-7, NIV).

My special shoes are the same (I prefer my shoes to large river rocks!).  Physical reminders of a God-intervention.  A sign on my life-road saying, “God at Work!”

Ann Voskamp wrote this week about this world breaking us apart.  Chips, broken pieces and cracks in our soul made by the daily and the difficult.  Kids fighting.  Bills due.  Sick husband.  Dying mother.  Lost mail.  No job.  Shattered relationship.  Wandering child.  Missed appointment.   Trust destroyed.  Marriage dead.  Dinner ruined.

The world chips and chips away at us.  “It never stops dis-membering” (Voskamp).

In the Psalms, David sometimes talked to himself.  He bossed his emotions around a bit and told his mind and soul what to do.  He said, “Bless the LORD, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name!  Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits” (Psalm 103:1-2, NIV).

And so today, I am commanding my soul to remember.  Not just the broken and chipped me, made less by the world’s incessant bullying.

No, “all that is within me,” altogether me, every bit of brokenness restored and made whole.  As Ann Voskamp said, I am re-membered and re-collected through forgetting not.  It’s a discipline and a choice to live the here and now in view of past blessings and provision.

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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

They Will See God

Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.
Psalm 105:4, NIV

A few weeks ago, I waited in the line of moms and dads who were picking up their children from our church nursery.  I could see inside the room where my daughter was playing, but she couldn’t yet see me.  As the parents before me went into the room, my baby started craning her neck to see if she could find me in the crowd.  She looked up as each new adult entered the room and kept searching every face to see if it was mine.

Then she saw me.  I watched her face change from searching . . . searching . . . searching . . . to pure joy at finding Mom!!   She beamed.  She ran to me.  She practically knocked me over with her embrace.

Really, there are few moments as a mom more precious than seeing a little person so excited just to see your face.  To know that you are so very loved by someone sweet and innocent, even though you aren’t perfect or even the best.

That moment with my daughter made me think of how I should passionately and intently seek after God, for intimacy with Him and time in His presence, and for opportunities to give Him heartfelt adoration and praise and to show I love Him.  After all, He is perfect and the best!

I want to see God.  I want to do whatever it takes to have a closer relationship with Him.  Just like David, I can say, “My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!’  Your face, LORD, I will seek” (Psalm 27:8, NIV).

Sometimes all it takes to see God is persistently pursuing His presence.  Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (NIV).  Also in Psalm 27,  David said, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:13-14, NIV).

My daughter kept searching the crowd of parents in the church nursery and ultimately she did see me.  I came at the appointed time.  She was not abandoned and left alone.  All that she had to do was wait and not give up.

Don’t stop searching for God’s face in the midst of your busy life, your family stresses, your ministry concerns, your health crisis, your financial struggles, your job disappointments, your heart-wrenching fears.  Keep seeking with all Your heart.  You will see God.

But, actively seek.  Sometimes we wonder why we aren’t seeing God’s presence in our lives, but we are relegating Him to 10 minutes of our day as we skim through a devotional.  Or we think that listening to a sermon and some Christian radio counts as connecting with God.  Be willing to give God your time sacrificially.  Invite Him into every part of your day and immerse yourself in His Word so that you know Him more fully.

There are other times, though, that finding God takes more than just pursuing His presence.  Matthew 5:8 tells us, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (NIV).  Seeking God also means pursuing purity.

Earlier this week, I took a day off from writing.  It was partly out of necessity because the day was so hectic with appointments, work, family and ministry.  But, it was also because I needed a time out.  Someone did something in total innocence that frustrated me.  It wounded my ridiculous pride and I reacted with some pouting and whining and, yes, I admit–a private little tantrum.

It was sin and I knew it.  I needed some time to get right with God.

As much as I could, I spent the afternoon in God’s Word, letting Him sift my heart, reveal the sin and deal with it.   I seem to have these pitfalls, these consistent sins that trip me up, hindering and entangling me (Hebrews 12:1).  Do you have some of those—-lessons that you need to learn over and over and over and you wonder if you’ll ever get it right?

Unfortunately, these sins separate me from God and obscure His face.

Fortunately—or more accurately— amazingly, God extends abundant mercy and compassion when we confess our sins to Him and ask Him to make us clean. We are promised that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, NIV).

That day, I prayed through Psalm 51, which was David’s Psalm of repentance.  He had committed adultery with Bathsheba and then had her husband killed to hide the sin after she became pregnant.  Adultery.  Murder.  It seems like a lot for God to forgive, and yet God’s grace is big enough for any sin we lay at His feet.  Like David, I prayed, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10, NIV). I want a steadfast spirit, not my roller coaster reactions when I feel hurt or wronged.

Paul wrote, “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God” (2 Corinthians 7:1, NIV).   Purity of heart isn’t something we stumble on accidentally.  It’s not a spiritual gift that God gives to some people and not to others.  Instead, it means confessing sin and also actively pursuing purity and “perfecting holiness.”  It means asking Him to dig deep in my heart to root out the ugly sins that have such a deep hold on me, even when it hurts, even though it embarrasses me to face up to what’s really lurking in my soul.

It’s worth it– Seeing God’s face and knowing that–not only am I lighting up at finding Him in the crowd, but that He’s grinning at the sight of me washed clean and anticipating His presence.  I want a pure heart so that I can see God.  I don’t want to miss out on His presence, His peace, or His activity in my life.

Are you willing to do whatever it takes to see God?  Right now, that might just be holding on to hope with all your might.  Pursue His presence and keep waiting with expectation for God to show up in all His glory.  Do not give up.   Or, it might mean getting on your knees and asking Him to cleanse your heart and forgive you.  Then, with a pure heart, you will see God.

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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

Faith in the Fog

The other night, I had to drive through fog down unfamiliar, windy, dark roads.  Talk about a frightening experience!  I started out with my hands gripped tightly to the steering wheel (both hands, of course), sitting straight up instead of relaxing into the back of my chair, and my eyes squinting to see as far ahead as possible.  My whole body was tensely focused on seeing ahead, and I was inevitably frustrated and somewhat anxious because there wasn’t really that much I could see.  It was just haze and darkness.

But, I learned something that night.  Things were a whole lot easier when I stopped focusing on what I couldn’t see and redirected my attention to what I could see.  I slowed down and stopped squinting to see what was ahead.  It wasn’t easy to retrain my eyes, but I shifted my gaze to the point right ahead of my car, where my lights shone, and not the distant darkness.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like my life is a foggy night and I’m trying to navigate a windy and unfamiliar path.  This frustrates me because I like to have the whole plan when I undertake something.  I’m also a question asker.  When I start a project, I want to know: What exactly is the final product supposed to look like?  What are the steps I need to go through to get there?  How long is this going to take?  What are the pitfalls?  What happens when it’s over?  Has anyone else done this before?  Will I get a blessing at the end of all this?

I’m no Abraham who, “when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8, NIV).

Oh no, I’m more of the “God, I’ll go when you tell me where, when, what, how, and why” kind of person.  That makes the faith walk hard for me.

I’m always straining and squinting to see what’s ahead in the darkness.

I’m so focused on what I can’t see that I miss out on what’s visible right now.

I’m paralyzed and unable to move forward because the unknown seems so treacherous.

In my quiet times this week, I came across this verse,“If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; but when they attend to what He reveals, they are most blessed” (Proverbs 29:18, MSG).

This is one of those verses that steps on my toes a bit and calls me to account.  It asks me to put aside how I naturally react to things and make some tough changes so I can become more like Christ.  It cuts deep into my heart and reveals some of my hidden doubts and fears.

I wrote in my journal, “God, this is so true of me.  I feel like I need to be ‘in on’ what You’re doing in order to be encouraged and sure-footed.  Please help me to attend to what you reveal and not worry about what You’re doing that I can’t see.”

It’s hard to be content with just what He has revealed.  I’m easily discouraged because I don’t see the results of my obedience and all the effort I’m making in the here and now seems useless and unrewarded.  When I don’t know what’s ahead of me, I so quickly begin to worry about the details of the future.  What if there’s an obstacle I haven’t considered?  What if there’s a curve in the road that I can’t see?

It makes me think of Paul, who stood before King Agrippa and gave an account of his life and ministry.  In that testimony, Paul says, “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven” (Acts 26:19, NIV).  When Christ appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus years earlier, he didn’t give Paul a detailed outline of his future life of ministry.  God didn’t describe the shipwrecks, beatings and imprisonments Paul would endure, but He also didn’t tell him about the salvations, the travels to faraway lands where no one had ever taken the gospel, or how many of his letters would end up in the Bible.

Instead, God’s initial call for the apostle was so basic, so simple, and so lacking in details.  God told him, “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do” (Acts 9:6, NIV).  At this point, Paul (at that point still called Saul) was literally and figuratively blind!  He couldn’t focus on the unknown.  All he could do was obey the next step, what God had revealed just for that moment, and towards the end of the life he could say with confidence that he obeyed “the vision from heaven.”

Years from now, will I be able to say that I obeyed God’s call?  Or will I wait so long for the details and assurances of success that I never step out in faith and obedience?  Will I give up on what God has called me to do because I don’t see results and reward?  Or will I remain obedient to the vision and refuse to give up when the future seems hazy and dark?

It is a matter of focus.  When I worry about the many things I don’t know, I stumble all over myself and get lost in the fog.  But when I “attend to what He reveals,” focusing only on what God has told me to do right now in this moment, I will be “most blessed.”

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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