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But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33, KJV)
In my travels and public-speaking engagements, people often ask me questions that seem to have the same theme: How should I get started? How does a young woman initiate the series of events that leads to a goal such as the Miss America title? How does a bride begin her married life? How does anyone begin his day?
My answer can be summed up in this verse, Matthew 6:33, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things
shall be added unto you." My reliance on the wisdom of this verse as "the way to start" is true whether I am responding as Miss America 1995, the wife of John McCallum or a young woman just stumbling out of bed. I believe my first act, my first goal--my first instinct--must be to seek God, His kingdom and His righteousness.
My first thought when awakening, my first activity as I begin my day, my first priority when I begin a life step as
important and complex as marriage is to focus on God, to put Him first. Not my goal but His; not my will but His.
By seeking God first, I was motivated to aspire to the Miss America title as a platform for demonstrating how He has guided and blessed my life. Me, a deaf woman. Me, a girl who grew up seeing people laugh at jokes I could not hear, share intimacies I could not quite understand, discuss plans I had to work extra hard to fit into. Me, a child who knew rejection and misunderstanding at school. Me, a daughter of divorce. Me, an aspiring dancer who learned to depend on myheart to "hear" music that others heard with their ears.
As a bride I entered marriage with the conviction that both John and I must seek God first before each other. The triangular relationship that is often depicted graphically, with God at the top of the triangle and the husband and wife in the bottom two corners, means that each of us--John and myself--must seek God individually. We must know His will for each of us as a person, and then we can relate to each other as a married couple. Only then are we prepared to do so.
My first thought when I awaken is: What is God's will for me today? This seeking Him first--before thinking about my to-do list,
before planning what I'll wear, before even throwing back the covers--this process focuses my attention and my heart. It sets a tone of obedience for the rest of day.
I will tell you more about my understanding of the word "seek" and also what I believe to be the promise Jesus makes at the end of this one key verse, but first I must give you some background.
AM I A BIBLE SCHOLAR?
I'm not a biblical scholar nor a theologian. I'm a seeker like you. Every day I add a little more to my understanding of God and His plan for my
life. I do this through a deliberate process called seeking.
For me, seeking involves regular prayer; daily Bible study; interaction with other believers at my church and the larger faith community;
disciplines such as fasting and tithing; and obedience ranging from my public profession of faith to a lifestyle of service. Although I am a
seeker, I sin and require daily forgiveness. I fall short of God's will for my life. I disappoint myself and Him too, I'm sure. So this book of
meditations comes entirely from my own life experiences, not from academic knowledge.
You'll find I use a favorite Scripture with each devotional. My comments on each verse are based on my personal perspective. I rely on
anecdotes--some from my time in the public eye, others from my private life.
Yet, although I cannot claim biblical scholarship, I make a deep commitment to you as a reader. I promise to be real. I promise to be myself.
My life hasn't always been easy. There were failures on my way to the success of winning the Miss America title. I experienced some pain during the year of my reign, which I will reveal--as well as the happiness, of course. Growing up deaf was tough; that presented its own complications and insecurities. Although I married a wonderful, handsome man, my dating life before John came along had some struggles and doubts. And, as I write this, I'm a college student trying to juggle homework with marriage and with more demands for public appearances than I can accept.
WHICH BRINGS UP THE REASON . . .
I decided to write a book of meditations. My faith is one of the characteristics people seem to know about me--I pray that anyone who knows
the name Heather Whitestone McCallum will think of me first and foremost as a Christian (although I must admit that "the deaf Miss America" probably comes to mind too). I'm known to be honest, even outspoken, about my journey with God. Interviewers, audiences, even people on the street have asked, "Heather, what Scriptures are meaningful to you and why?"
And so I decided that a book of devotions must come from my heart. The verses I use, the comments I write, even the words of prayer I suggest you pray--they all must reflect my passion for truly seeking God first, for beginning the day with Him, for searching for His will in all of life's decisions, for discovering Him in quiet moments as well as dramatic bolts of lightning and claps of thunder.
I believe that a walk with God is dynamic. It's a thrilling journey. It's also a pensive search inside oneself. And so, just as I have committed to
sharing intimate stories from my life, I promise not to hold back in telling you what the Bible means to me.
I will tell you when a passage has jolted me out of the blue. I will share what has touched me to the core of my being. I will confront you
with realities--based on God's Word--which are meaningful to me; of course, it's entirely your choice whether to accept them as your own