I Don’t Know and That’s Okay

ezekiel-37

I almost pulled over when I saw the sign.

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

But we were tired.

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

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

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

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

Kristen, please come home. ♥

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that’s okay.

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

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

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

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

How would I have answered?

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

But Ezekiel answered differently.  He said,

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

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

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

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

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

We ask:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catching Fireflies on a Summer’s Night

For one who has died has been set free from sin.”
Romans 6:7

It’s what summer looks like to me.

Stepping out into the slightest hint of coolness in the final minutes of a hot summer’s day, we carry an empty Mason jar with a foil lid folded down over the edges of the glass.  The sun drifts down and the light dims so that we can see the fireflies at play.

Last night, I called them “lightning bugs” like we did as kids, and my daughter scrunched up her nose in confusion.

Lightning bugs.  Fireflies.  It’s the freedom of summer.  We stay up past bedtime and run around the yard swinging our arms and cupping our hands trying to catch one.  Unfortunately, I think we’ve scared off the fireflies in our particular area.  They hear us coming and taunt us by flying just a little too high and just a little too far into the woods.

Still, we manage to catch a few.  For those daughters who don’t succeed in the hunt, we gently ease a bug into their hand and they giggle because it tickles, of course.  Then we drop the firefly softly into the Mason jar and deftly replace the foil lid so none escape.

On TV, whenever you see a jar of fireflies, it’s lit up, a natural lantern for the evening jaunt.

But I haven’t seen this.  Last night as I watched the few captives in our jar, they remained dark.  They didn’t expend any energy for light.  Instead, their every effort remained focused on escape.  Most of them immediately scaled the jar and sat at the top, right up against the foil, just waiting for me to open the lid again so they could fly to freedom.

Usually, we manage to defeat their various tactics and keep them in the jar until the end of the night when one daughter whines because she didn’t catch one and another daughter begs to catch just one more.  Then they all ask if we can just keep them overnight or for an hour or just a few minutes.

Pleeeeease?   Pretty please?

But I’m sympathetic to the plight of our captives.  So, before we trudge inside we lift up the foil lid and let loose the fireflies.  They jump into the air and without hesitation light up—probably sending out a warning that predators are on the move.

Whatever their message, freedom helps them shine.

Their freedom comes at little cost to them really.  They’ve made attempts at escape, but most have failed.  Ultimately, their freedom flight simply requires me to lift the foil beneath my fingers.

Our freedom, however, is costly.  Physically, most of us receive the gift of freedom because of the sacrifice of others.  I read this week that Thornton Wilder, the famed American playwright and novelist, fought in both WWI and WWII.  People like him paid the price for people like us.

In the same way, our spiritual freedom carries a high price tag, one we could never pay.  Instead, we are the recipient of freedom because of another’s sacrifice.

Paul tells us:

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

Freedom is God’s design for us.  It has always been His intention and plan and Christ willingly paid the costly price on our behalf.

A girl in my online Bible study group reminded me of this verse:  “…God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10:38 ESV).

Jesus is a freedom-giver, a defeater of oppression and freer of captives.

But Paul charges us with a task, as well. Christ offered us freedom and now it is our job to “stand firm” and refuse to submit to slavery again.

It seems silly, but we often choose prison over the freedom Christ offers.  We sit in the bottom of our Mason jar, unwilling to fly and light up the night.  Perhaps we want to do it on our own, scale the glass, escape the lid.  Perhaps the night air is too frightening and the jar too comfortable because it’s what we know.

Do you do this?

If anxiety is your jail, do you rebuild the prison walls by wallowing in fear, allowing your mind to travel where it shouldn’t, looking up information that you know will disturb you, inciting emotions and then letting them run wild?

When the rigors of legalism and the chains of people-pleasing threaten to oppress you, do you submit–check the boxes, follow the crowd, follow expectations, try not to rock the boat, don’t do anything crazy or radical?

If shame holds you captive, do you allow Satan to throw your past in your face, to call you names, to cover your eyes so you can’t see the totally loved, totally forgiven person Christ has made you?

God never meant for you to live oppressed. 
So, now that He’s offered you freedom . . . live free by living in truth (John 8:32).

Combat lies with the Word.
Feed on a diet of Scripture so that doubts and Satan’s schemes starve.
Be alert to the first sign of shackles and chains as Satan, the world, and even your old habits try to sneak them onto your wrists and feet.

Freedom is Christ’s gift to you, so refuse to accept captivity any longer.  He’s called you to shine and to fly and to share the message of sweet, sweet freedom with other prisoners.

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.

VBS Lessons: No Matter How You Feel

All week long I’m thinking about the Bible points for our Vacation Bible School and what they mean for adults.  Tonight at Sky VBS! (Group Publishing), we’re learning: No Matter How You Feel…Trust God!

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Twisted Ankle, Twisted Truth
Originally published 11/7/2011

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God” John 14:1

For some reason when I clean, I clean fast.  No slow and methodical wiping of the rag or scrubbing of the dish for me.

In an old episode of How Clean is Your House (love that show!), the expert cleaner explained how many calories you could work off just by vacuuming.  I probably double that with my aerobic cleaning.

So, yesterday I snatched up the trash bag with an upwards yank, dropped it on the floor, tied it up in record time and dashed out the front door, hopped down the front steps, tossed open the trash can lid, plopped the trash bag in, released the lid so it crashed down and kept on walking in one nearly unbroken stride.

Unbroken, that is, until I stepped down on what I thought was solid ground, but was really a sink hole courtesy of our friendly front yard mole.  My ankle twisted in an unexpected direction.  I felt the wince of pain as I almost hit the ground.

Now, fortunately, it was just a momentary shock of pain.  In a few seconds I was limping down the driveway for the mail.  A minute later I was back to the sport of Extreme Cleaning with no long-term damages.

But life in its way is no less unexpected and sometimes no less shockingly painful.

It can be as simple as the surprise pitfalls in a single day.  Like the fact that my house was passably clean when we awoke this morning.  Then my three daughters painted beautiful artwork, and each other, and the chairs, the table, the carpet, their clothes.  After an unplanned mid-morning bath, all of the paint flecked off their bodies onto the bathtub.

Surprise!  Suddenly my day became a whole-house scrub-down and laundry marathon.

It can be as paralyzing as a life-changing twist.  The phone call with bad news.  The hack to your budget.  The visit to the doctor.  The sputter of a car.  The removing of a wedding ring.

Somehow in the middle of this topsy-turvy, always uncertain, shake-up of a world, the Psalmist wrote:

“My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music” (Psalm 57:7, NIV). 

Reading the preceding verses makes it clear, David wasn’t treading on a comfortable path when he penned this Psalm.  He wrote these particular words “when he had fled from Saul into the cave.”

So, how then, could his heart be steadfast?  How could he be “firmly fixed in place, immovable, not subject to change, firm in belief” while running for his life from the powerful king of an enemy? (Merriam-Webster).

And what about us?

Those minor unexpected annoyances in my morning left me cranky and quick-to-snap.

Major upsets to my plans and life cost me a night of sleep.

Steadfast?  Not me.  Not hardly.

The trouble is that the steadiness of my belief seems utterly dependent on the ease of the path I trod.

It’s not dependent enough on Him, My God, My Firm Foundation, My Solid Rock.

Martha sank deep into an unexpected pit when Jesus didn’t heal her brother, Lazarus.  Instead, she left the place of mourning over his death in order to confront Jesus about it privately.  “’Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’” (John 11:21).

Jesus knew just what to ask her:  “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (Luke 11:25-26).

Did she believe this?  Did she believe that Jesus was more than a nice friend and successful religious teacher?  Did she believe in Him was resurrection and life?

Could she put aside her emotions and declare that no matter how she felt, she could trust God?

Martha regained her footing on this shaky ground by stating her belief: “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world” (John 11:27).

Yesterday, I felt the familiar suffocation of fear at some unexpected news.

Today, I experienced the all-too-familiar bad attitude over some twists in my day.

And Jesus asks me, “What do you believe?”

He asks the same of you.

You may be tempted to spout off the Nicene Creed or fall back safely on the answers of a good Christian girl.

Really, though.  Truly.  Honestly.

What do you believe?

Shaky ground and a loss of footing are always signs of belief problems.

It means:

we’ve been putting our faith in ourselves, in others, in our circumstances.
we’re relying on our own plans.
we’re depending on our own strength.
we’ve bought into lies somewhere along the way.

As you catch your breath after a fall, steady yourself by reaffirming the truth.

I believe God loves me, always, unconditionally, fully.
I believe that God’s grace covers over all my sins.
I believe that I will never go through any circumstance alone; God will never leave me nor forsake me.
I believe that He can do anything, even more than I could ever imagine.
I believe that even when I see tragedy, God is working on my behalf and for my good.
I believe that God will be glorified in every situation.
I believe God will provide for my every need.

This is what we know is true, no matter what we may feel.  Therefore, we can trust God.

 

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

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Shout! A Little Bit Louder Now, Part II

It seems like such a simple test, but it’s more complicated than you might expect.

My daughter sat up in the bed in the doctor’s office for her annual checkup.  She had already stepped on the scale, stood up straight and tall, and read the eye chart.  Now it was time for the hearing test.

The nurse held the contraption into her ear and gave instructions.  “Raise your hand when you hear the beeps.”

I know, however, from years of experience that it isn’t so easy. We’ve been through this before.

There was the time she thought that meant raise your hand when the beeps begin and keep holding it up for the whole test.

So, I say, “Now, raise your hand when you hear a beep and then put it back down again so you can raise it up when you hear the next beep. You need to raise up and down, up and down.”

There was the time that she raised her hand just two or three times for the whole test and the nurse said, “Did you hear all those beeps?”

“Yes,” my daughter answered, “but some of them were quiet.”

So, I say, “Raise your hand every single time you hear a beep, even if some are loud and some are quiet.”

Unfortunately, the whole time my oldest daughter is listening intently to beeps, my youngest two girls are trying to tell stories, sing songs, fight with each other, play peekaboo, and any other number of extremely noisy and distracting past-times.

How’s a girl to hear a quiet beep in the middle of all that noise?

Yes, the hearing test sounds so simple and always ends up so very complicated.

In Part I, I talked about how we feel sometimes like we need a microphone to broadcast our cries to heaven so God can hear us.

But, today I’m thinking about our own spiritual hearing tests and how hard it is at times to hear what God is saying.

Sometimes it’s the noisy roar of circumstances that makes God’s voice so difficult to distinguish.

That’s what had the Israelites failing their spiritual hearing exam.

Initially, when Moses appeared back in Egypt with God’s promises of hope and deliverance, “the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the people of Israel and that He had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped” (Exodus 4:31, ESV).

Then Pharaoh hardened his heart again and again.  Life got harder before deliverance came.

So when Moses reassured them of God’s promise, “they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery” (Exodus 6:9).

They weren’t even listening to God’s messenger any more.  They were listening to bricks and mortar, to an earthly king, to slavemasters and work orders.

God spoke hope and all they heard was hopelessness.  God spoke peace and all they heard was dread and fear.

Then there are the times that we hear voices, many voices—on the radio, from our friends, in our devotions, in sermons, in books and in conversation.  Which is God’s?  How can we discern the sound of His beep among the confusing mess of beeping in our ears?

How do we know what God is saying?

Paul wrote, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

Whether it’s the message of salvation to a lost world or a message of peace to a hurting believer, we hear God when we are in His Word.

We always go back to the Bible.  We always rely on Scripture to discern truth.

That’s what happened when Paul arrived in the city of Berea to teach the Gospel: “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11).

Notice they “examined the Scriptures every day.”  The ability to discern truth doesn’t come from a random romp through the Bible every few months.

Discernment develops when we spend consistent time in God’s Word.  Discernment happens when we know His character and the sound of His voice from what He has done and said over thousands of years.  Discernment comes when we can lay every message beside the pages of Scripture and tell when they align and when they don’t.

Elisabeth Elliot wrote:

The Bible is God’s message to everybody.  We deceive ourselves if we claim to want to hear His voice but neglect the primary channel through which it comes.  We must read His Word.  We must obey it.  We must live it, which means rereading it throughout our lives.

We live noisy lives in a noisy world.  It’s a confusing mess at times and an overwhelming cacophony in other moments.

But we know that God’s “word is truth” (John 17:17) and that “The word of the Lord holds true, and everything He does is worthy of our trust” (Psalm 33:4).

Whether we’re sifting through the sounds of circumstances or sorting through information overload, we can always trust Scripture to speak to the truth of God’s character and will.

You can read more devotionals on this topic here:

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

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Shedding 5 Pounds With Yogurt

“Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth”
(John 17:17).

While my daughters munched on morning toast and cereal, I toted a yogurt around the house, eating an occasional spoonful in between changing diapers, putting away blankets, feeding the cats and all the normal start-the-day chores.

My daughter wide-eyed in innocence asked me, “Mom, are you trying to lose your weight?”

My weight?!

“Well,” she explained, “I saw that commercial on TV and they said you could eat that yogurt and lose your weight like even 5 pounds maybe and it would be easy.”

Thanks Mr. advertiser, sir, for making my six-year-old a personal diet coach.

Truth hurts a little sometimes, doesn’t it?

At least it should.  When Jesus prayed for the disciples, He asked God to “sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).  Sanctify means to make holy and that’s what this Bible with all of its packed-in and sometimes painful truth is supposed to be working out in our lives–our sanctification, our holiness, our transformation into Christ-likeness.

While the truth sometimes comforts us, it also shakes us up a bit.  It reminds us of ways we need to change and calls us to repentance.

When I read God’s Word quickly, glossing over the Scripture passages just so I can check off my Bible reading for the day, I miss out on the conviction and also the power of God to change me.

Sometimes reading the Bible should make me squirm a bit in my chair or turn my face hot with sorrow at revealed sin.  Because I’m not perfect.  Because I don’t want to stay this way.  Because I want people to look at me and see Christ and as I am now, I’m an imperfect reflection.

Oswald Chambers wrote:

When Jesus drives something home to you through His Word, don’t try to evade it.  If you do, you will become a religious impostor.  Examine the things you tend simply to shrug your shoulders about, and where you have refused to be obedient, and you will know why you are not growing spiritually.

The author of Hebrews said:

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.

The Word of God is wielded as a scalpel by a Master Surgeon, cutting into our wounded and broken places, separating out what is healthy flesh from what is diseased, dead, and necrotic.  The Surgeon doesn’t dissect in order to hurt and bring pain; He cuts deep to bring health, healing and wholeness.

And if we never feel the sting of the knife’s blade or run our hands over a scar left in place of the wound, then we’ve never allowed His Word to clean out the pockets of sin buried in hidden places of our life.

It’s not that the Bible becomes a club of accusation or that it’s never an encouraging or comforting word.  It’s not just that Scripture points a finger in our face and dumps burdens of shame on our back. Not at all.  Romans 8:1 promises us: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

No, Scripture reminds us of our mistakes, but accompanies that with the offer of grace.  It’s always a package deal.

Ezra, the high priest of Israel, and Nehemiah finally finished rebuilding the temple and walls of Jerusalem after returning from exile.  They gathered “all who could understand” into the square while Ezra read aloud the Book of the Law of Moses.  The crowd listened in silence, except for their weeping as God’s Word uncovered their disobedience.

The people stood for hours, morning until noon, each day while he read, and they fasted and donned sackcloth and dumped ashes on their head in sorrow for their sin.  Theirs was the natural response of people who were attentive to God’s Word.

In the midst of their distress, their hearts brought low in shame, they declared, “But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love” (Nehemiah 9:17).

Oh yes, truth hurts sometimes.  If it’s never painful or uncomfortable, maybe we’ve tuned it out or accepted watered-down adaptations.  Even as we wince with pain, though, we know that the one yielding the scalpel does so with grace and compassion, pouring out a healing balm of forgiveness that washes away the signs of sin.

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

And Then What Happened? Part II

“Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their hearts.  You will listen carefully”
Psalm 10:17

You can read “And Then What Happened? – Part I” here

Part II: Fretting Is Not the Same as Praying

I have some things in my life even now that I find myself pleading with God about.  Some suspense-filled situations, some impossible dreams that I’d like to see God miraculously fulfill, some questions about what will happen next.  Is everything going to work out the way I desire?  Will God take care of this need?  What is it that God has planned for me?

The suspense is killing my suspense-hating heart.

So, my prayers begin to take on some urgency.   More than that, when I pray, my words sound more like a child begging for candy in the checkout line rather than the trusting requests of a content child.  “Please, please, pleeeeeeeease, may I have this?  Please will You answer this request the way I would like?  It would all be so perfect if You would work out all these details so this could happen.”

What I am asking for is not as selfish as a chocolate bar or as petty as a $2 Princess camera that does little more than click when you press a button—the novelty items that my children find oh-so-tempting.  I’m asking out of need and out of a weighty burden for someone else.  It’s not what I’m requesting that’s the problem; it’s how I’m asking.

Then, changing my praying attire from pig-tailed toddler to business-suit lawyer, I present my case to God.  “This is the evidence showing why the verdict should go my way.  I have exhibits A, B and C to back me up here. Please decide in my favor.”

As a backlash to my heart’s desires, my rational side gets involved in this debate.  Attempting to protect myself from disappointment, I say to my heart, “These situations are impossible.  Period.  End of Story.  There is no way that things will work out the way you desire.  The circumstantial evidence against you is just too overwhelming.  You’ll just have to settle for less.”

I accept those highly logical arguments for a time, but knowing that God can do anything, even the impossible, I fall down to my knees, squint my eyes, clasp my hands together and go back to pleading.  “Oh, please, please, please, please . . . ”

Years ago, I found myself “praying” this way most of the night every night.  Begging and arguing and explaining to God.  I talked and talked and talked some more to Him.  When I’d said everything I had to say, I just said it all over again.

Was this truly prayer?  Or was it instead simply fretting in front of God’s throne?

It’s not that God requires us to pretend we’re all right even when we’re not, to hide our disappointment or anger or fear and act like faith-filled super-Christians.  David and Job and Habakkuk all poured out ugly truth in their conversations with Him.  Psalm 51:6 tells us, “Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts” (NKJV).  With God, we can always be honest.   He knows what’s hidden in the dark corners of our heart anyway.  Telling Him how we feel, however, invites Him to do something about it, to speak truth back to our hearts.

I wasn’t just being honest with God, though,  I was begging and pleading.  I was doing all the talking.  As Chris Tiegreen writes, “Don’t confuse pleading with God and believing God.  Both are appropriate, but only one qualifies as faith.

Instead of having faith that God heard my request, that He would work on my behalf, always working things out for my good and for my benefit, that He was not only able to do the impossible, but He was also willing, even desirous, to bless me and shower me with affection—instead of praying with that faith, I was pacing back and forth at His feet, more focused on my request than on my Answer.

That explains why Philippians 4:16 wasn’t working out for me: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”  I was making prayer and supplication, I was letting my requests be made known to God, but I prayed out of anxiety and worry rather than with gratitude and worship.  Chris Tiegreen also wrote, “Faith allows us to rest,” and this certainly wasn’t resting.

I had justified my pleading, telling God I was willing to be the persistent widow, presenting my case to the Judge day after day after day until He granted my request.  Yet, somehow persistence for me had become inextricably linked with a lack of faith.

So, I followed a suggestion and created a penny cup.

Needing a physical way to move prayers out of my heart and into God’s hands and then leave them there, I placed an empty mug on my desk.  Every time I found a penny (which happens more often than you might realize!), I placed the penny in the cup and prayed for that one specific request.  I didn’t spend hours repeating my petition every night.  I really only prayed about it when I moved the penny out of my hand and into the pile of other coins.  And I was persistent.  My pile of copper grew as I laid my request at His feet time after time.  Yet, I didn’t pick any of those pennies back up.  I left them there.  I didn’t linger, arguing, explaining or pleading.  I said a simple prayer, “God, please work the miracles necessary in this situation.  I need Your help.  Thank You that You work on my behalf.  Amen.”   Clink went the penny into the cup.  Away I walked, trusting that God could take care of my need.

Somehow, even though what’s going to happen is still unseen, even though the circumstances I’m in still remain unresolved, I feel less plagued by suspense.  Instead, I feel reassured.  I will likely continue to groan at to-be-continued television episodes and I will surely still flip to the back of the book to see how it ends before reading the first page.  I hate cliffhangers and suspense and dramatic tension as much as ever.

About our Christian walk, however, Paul wrote, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him” (Colossians 2:6).  He tells us what will happen next.  It ends the suspense and resolves all cliffhangers.  We will keep living our lives in Christ today, tomorrow, and the day after that.  All of the specifics may be unclear, but the bottom line remains the same.  We live in Emmanuel, God With Us.  And when I pray in faith rather than begging and pleading, I remember that the God who is with me will take care of it.  He’ll walk me through.   It may or may not be what I’ve desired or planned, but it will always be in His capable, trustworthy, compassionate hands.  “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lamentations 3:25-26).

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

A Puzzle of Peace

You will keep him in perfect peace, him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you”
Isaiah 26:3

Five days a week at noon I journey to the school and wait in the line of minivans to pick up my daughters from their classes.  By that time each day, my baby girl is tired and ready for lunch and a nap, so the lull of the car bounces her to sleep almost daily.  I have the joy of watching.  Have you ever watched a baby fall asleep?  Her breathing slows down ever so slightly.  My little one folds her blanket over and snuggles it against her cheeks.  Then the eyelids start to linger ever so slightly with each blink—closing for longer, and longer, and longer each time until finally  . . . sleep.

It’s peace demonstrated for me on an almost daily basis.  The quiet rest, the feeling of safety, the calm, the trust.  Doesn’t that sound heavenly?

Somehow over time, though, most of us lose that miraculous peace, the absolute trust that you are loved and cared for so you can rest and leave the driving to someone else.  It’s not present in my heart all of the time.  I may let God do the driving, but I’m usually the passenger holding a map and questioning the navigational choices of my Divine Driver.

Do You really want us to turn there, God?
Do You know where You are going, God?
Do You have a destination in mind for me, a plan, a hope and a future?
Do You know any shortcuts that can get us there faster?

This often-elusive fruit of the spirit—peace—-is not a fairy tale or a figment of our Christian imaginations.  It’s there available to us.  Yet, sometimes I reject the peace that God offers me by failing to discipline my emotions and thoughts.  I pray for peace for myself and others, the “peace of God, which transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) and think that God’s peace is going to enter my heart miraculously and with little effort on my part.  It’s a prayer that we sometimes use as a magical spell instead of allowing God to change our hearts so that peace becomes possible.

The bottom line is some of our behaviors need to change, some of our thought patterns need to be stirred up a little bit and some of our emotions bossed around. 

Right before Paul talks about this incomprehensible peace that God offers, he tells the Philippian church “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil 4:5). Peace starts with a thankful heart.  In all of our anxieties, “in every situation,” begin by giving thanks.  The worries that infect and plague us cannot coexist with the antibiotic of gratitude.

Paul also tells the church that God’s peace will “guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Peace requires the active discipline of standing guard over our hearts and minds and refusing admittance to whatever thoughts aren’t peace-full.  Paul wrote out a clear test for determining whether a thought should gain entry: “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” (Phil. 4:8).

It’s not that my thoughts are blatantly sinful or wrong, but I do have an internal dialogue of whining that certainly isn’t “lovely or admirable.”  And I have a tendency to dwell not on “whatever is true,” but instead on “whatever might be true.”  It’s when I allow myself to get caught up in “what if’s” that I trade in peace for worry and trust for anxiety.  “What if this happens?  What if that happens?  What would we do in this situation and in that situation?”  I sometimes live in hypotheticals that may never ever become a reality instead of focusing on what is true—-God is faithful; God promises to walk with me through everything; God loves me.  Dwelling on the truths of God’s promises instead of the questionable reality of our circumstances is our responsibility.  This discipline of taking “captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” is what prepares our hearts to receive His perfect peace.

Paul gives us one final piece of this peace puzzle.  He says, “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 4:9).  Peace occurs when we follow God’s instructions.   We can’t choose to disobey God’s commands, live how we want to live, do what we want to do, and then wonder why our circumstances are difficult.  There are consequences to every choice and it’s by choosing righteousness—-doing what God would have us do—–that we enjoy the peace of God’s blessing.  Isaiah wrote, “The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever” (Isaiah 32:17).

Have you been longing for peace lately?  Maybe you’re in circumstances that have you fretful and anxious.  Maybe you are in the middle of tough decisions and you aren’t sure what to do.  Maybe you have taken a step out in faith and you are waiting in hopeful anticipation of what God is going to do.  Maybe you worry over whether you’re good enough at being a parent; are you making the right decisions, handling things the best way for your child?

I pray peace over you, a supernatural rest for your heart and mind.  Our God is faithful and trustworthy and you can relax knowing that He is the one doing the driving.  But, don’t neglect your responsibility to make yourself a vessel prepared to receive the peace He gives.  Are there some bad habits that you need to break, some misassumptions you need to relinquish?  Do you need to be more disciplined about your thought life and more in control of your emotions?  Do you need to cease the “what if’s” and put an end to planning out hypotheticals?  Do you need to change some of your behaviors and pursue righteousness instead?

It’s not necessarily going to be easy and it certainly won’t be a one-time event.  No, it’s a moment-by-moment choice to trust God or not, to rest in Him or take over from Him, to do it God’s way or to demand our own way, but in the yielding of our hearts, minds and choices there is God-given peace.

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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