The Lifter of My Head

When I taught a young women’s Sunday School class, we were exploring the third Psalm.

David wrote this Psalm when fleeing from his son, Absalom.  He not only feared for his life, but his heart was broken by the shattered family relationships that led to this power struggle.

It wasn’t the first time he had to rely on God to intervene.

Psalm 3

A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.

Jehovah, how many are they that trouble me, many they that rise up against me!

Many say of my soul, There is no salvation for him in God. Selah.

But thou, Jehovah, art a shield about me; my glory, and the lifter up of my head.

With my voice will I call to Jehovah, and he will answer me from the hill of his holiness. Selah.

I laid me down and slept; I awaked, for Jehovah sustaineth me.

I will not fear for myriads of the people that have set themselves against me round about.

Arise, Jehovah; save me, my God! For thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheekbone, thou hast broken the teeth of the wicked.

Salvation is of Jehovah; thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah.

DARBY translation

I will do almost anything to make a lesson come alive.

So I lay down on the carpet, forehead to the floor, arms outstretched and asked, “Can I defend myself in any way in this position?”

Of course the answer was a resounding, “NO!” because it was obvious that I could not.

I was at the mercy of whoever may intend me harm.  I could neither see them nor stop them.  It was a position of absolute vulnerability-the way prisoners knelt for execution in ancient times.

It was the position Esther assumed when she embraced very real danger to gain the opportunity to plead for the safety of her people.

And it reflects the inner truth that I am not in control and utterly reliant on the God Who made me to save me.

save-me-o-god-hand-christian-wallpaper-hd_1366x768

A friend posted this on her timeline and I really like it.

lift-up-your-head-it-aint-overI would change only a single thing: Instead of “lift your head” I would say, “let God lift your head”.

Because I am unable to lift it myself.

I don’t have the strength, I don’t have the power, I don’t have the energy to raise my head above my current circumstances.  I am bent under the weight of sorrow and grief.  If left to myself, I will stay here and simply wait for the end to come-it sometimes sounds easier and more inviting.

But the truth is, it AIN’T over yet.

I don’t get to make that choice.  God does.  And as long as He keeps me here I want to rely on Him to lift my head and make my life a living testimony to His power, grace, mercy and love.

There IS salvation from God-not only eternal salvation but also salvation from the pit of despair and despondency that threatens to swallow my soul.  

When He lifts my head, I can see it.

no pit

My Choices Reflect My Focus

My daughter is a quote collector like her mama.  

Here’s the one she has taped to her dashboard:  

choices-reflect-rainbow

That is challenging for me.

When the one thing happens you think will never happen, well, that opens a whole chest full of fears you thought you’d locked inside.

But when I wake up I get to choose:  will I give in or fight back?

I’m learning that while I can’t stop the thoughts that fly around in my brain I can choose which ones I invite to make a nest there.

When fear threatens to undo me, I resist.  

I refuse to react to what MAY happen.  I choose to hold onto what IS happening, right now.

Truth is, either way, I have no control over the future.

I will not lose today because of what tomorrow might bring.

corrie-ten-boom-empties-today-of-strength

 

 

 

Soul Food

Whether I think about it or not, every day I’m feeding my soul.

I’m either feeding it truth from God’s Word so that it can grow fat and full of hope, joy, contentment and peace or I’m feeding it with the lies of this world so that it shrivels and becomes cold, disheartened, cynical and disillusioned.

I don’t always make the right choice.

Sometimes I give in to the temptation to linger long over my questions without answers, my pain without end in sight and my desire to have my old life back.

I have to choose, as an act of will, to turn away from despair and turn again to the Lover of my soul.

And when I do, He restores my soul, just as He promised.

The Psalms are full of verses that feed my soul hope and peace:

Adonai is a stronghold for the oppressed, a tower of strength in times of trouble.

~Psalm 9:10 CJB

psalm-9_9

I told You, Eternal One, “You are my Lord, for the only good I know in this world is found in You alone.”

~Psalm 16:2 VOICE

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.

~Psalm 28:7 KJV

psalm-28-7-1024x768

psalm56_3

When struck by fear, I let go, depending securely upon You alone.

~Psalm 56:3 Voice

Trust God, my friends, and always tell him each one of your concerns. God is our place of safety.

~Psalm 62:8  CEV

psalm-119-50

Never forget your promises to me your servant, for they are my only hope. They give me strength in all my troubles; how they refresh and revive me!

~Psalm 119:50 TLB

 

Guess what happens when you linger with the Lord?
He restores your soul.
– Eric Mason

Eye On The Prize

“To win the contest you must deny yourselves many things that would keep you from doing your best. An athlete goes to all this trouble just to win a blue ribbon or a silver cup, but we do it for a heavenly reward that never disappears.” [emphasis added]

~ I Corinthians 9:25 TLB

I remember one particularly grueling semester in college.  I had foolishly stacked five upper level political science classes on top of one another thinking that taking them together would be easier.

That was a dumb idea.

The end of semester assignments included 200 pages of written term papers along with essay tests and other random bits.  For two weeks I fell asleep on my bedroom floor, pen in hand, legal pad underneath my head and surrounded by dozens of open books I used for reference.

After composing the papers, I had to type them, add footnotes and bibliography and deliver them. All back before computers and word processing programs made it easy and electronic!

Oh, how I wanted to give up and give in!  I was certain that I was not going to make it.  I just knew that my body or mind or both would give out before I completed the task.

But they didn’t and I did manage to make it through.

I was willing to put forth the effort and pay the price for a letter grade!

No one cares what I made on those essays.  No one asks me about my college classes or grades.  At 53 I can’t even remember what I wrote about.

Now I face a much more challenging task:  Living without the companionship of one of my precious children.  The “grade” I make on this effort has eternal impact.  

This is the Valley of Weeping, yet Christ promises it will become a place of refreshing.

“When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of springs where pools of blessing and refreshment collect after rains!”

Psalm 84:6 TLB

I can’t see an end for this grueling work.  There’s no “semester break” circled on my calendar.

But there will be an end to this toil and pain-just as surely as there was an end those many years ago.

“As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne.” [emphasis added]

~Hebrews 12: 1-2 GNT

And the reward for faithfully completing this assignment is so much more valuable than a good grade.

“Yet, my brothers, I do not consider myself to have “arrived”, spiritually, nor do I consider myself already perfect. But I keep going on, grasping ever more firmly that purpose for which Christ grasped me. My brothers, I do not consider myself to have fully grasped it even now. But I do concentrate on this: I leave the past behind and with hands outstretched to whatever lies ahead I go straight for the goal—my reward the honour of being called by God in Christ.”  [emphasis added]

~Philippians 3:12-16 PHILLIPS

This reward is eternal-a never-ending supply of God’s grace and love and joy that will overwhelm the toil and pain I’ve endured.

Reunion.

Redemption.

Restoration.

gods stor doesnt end in ashes

So while I wait, I encourage my heart with these truths:

“Even more, I consider everything to be nothing compared to knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. To know him is worth much more than anything else. Because of him I have lost everything. But I consider all of it to be garbage so I can know Christ better.” [emphasis added]

~Philippians 3:8 NIRV

“We are cracked and chipped from our afflictions on all sides, but we are not crushed by them. We are bewildered at times, but we do not give in to despair. We are persecuted, but we have not been abandoned. We have been knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our bodies the reality of the brutal death and suffering of Jesus. As a result, His resurrection life rises and reveals its wondrous power in our bodies as well. 11 For while we live, we are constantly handed over to death on account of Jesus so that His life may be revealed even in our mortal bodies of flesh.” [emphasis added]

~ 2 Corinthians 4:8-11 VOICE

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” ~Jesus

~Matthew 28:20b NKJV

i-am-with-you-always

Hanging On

(A psalm by David.)

Listen, Lord, as I pray! You are faithful and honest and will answer my prayer.

~Psalm 143:1 CEV

There are days when I am not interested in a deep dive into Scripture or a lengthy conversation with myself or anyone else about faith.

Days when I’m too tired to try to tease out the meat from the fat or the subtle from the obvious.

On those days I hang on to HOPE by remembering some basic truths:

admit-im-weak-but-strong-god

In my own power I am lost, but God promises not to abandon me to my own resources.

He made me, He called me and He keeps me.

i-have-made-you-and-i-will-sustain-you

He hears my cry for mercy.  He collects my tears.  He turns His face toward my suffering and doesn’t look away.

When my heart is overwhelmed, He is my Rock, my Refuge and my Very Present Help in time of trouble.

when-my-heart-is-overwhelmed-lead-me-to-the-rock

He will not abandon me.

i-am-with-you-always

 

Tell Your Story

We all have one you know.

A story.

Many of us think ours isn’t important because it feels so small.  We can’t imagine our truth blazoned across a headline.

Your story matters.

Who you are and how you got there is worthy of repeating.  You never know if your story will be the key to unlock someone else’s prison.

your-story-could-be-the-key

Some heart is begging to know that they are not alone.

Some soul waits breathless to hear that what they are hiding is OK to share.

Someone, somewhere needs you to unlock the vault of memory and invite them to do the same.  

Speak your truth.  

Tell your story.

You own it.

tell-your-story-2

 

Worship as Warfare

After [Jehoshaphat] had advised the people, he appointed people to sing to the LORD and praise him for the beauty of his holiness. As they went in front of the troops, they sang, “Thank the LORD because his mercy endures forever!”

2 Chronicles 20:21 GWT

Image result for image music and worship

 

I love worship music.

My heart is transported from here to there in a single note.

 

In a moment, I am before the Throne, inside the Holy of Holies, crying out for more, more, more of Jesus.

Worship makes me vulnerable to the Spirit’s deep work in my heart-I hear truth, I see beyond the pain and I feel God’s love.

But it also makes me a target for the enemy of my soul.

Yesterday I plugged in Pandora to my stereo and was lifted higher, higher until… in a breath I was brought low.

Leaning over to raise the volume of a favorite song I came eye-to-eye with my missing son.

The photo we chose for his memorial folder is hanging with his siblings’ on my living room wall.

And I was transported from here to there in a heartbeat-

from almost two and a half years past that awful day to the moment I first breathed in the truth that he was gone.

Image result for image tears

 

I covered my eyes with both hands and refused the whispers of darkness.

The tears fell and my heart hurt, but I hissed back, “He’s not dead.  He’s just not here!”

 

 

And I cranked the Truth up higher and dared the devil to come back.

I raised my hands and chose to worship the One Who is loving my son until I get there, Who loves me even in my brokenness and Who will redeem this pain and restore what the enemy has stolen.

I took out my sword and declared  “He is a Good, Good Father.”

Image result for image he is a good good father

Encouraging Truth

season of suffereing

There’s a lot of truth packed into this little verse:

Suffering is hard but it won’t last forever.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Revelation 21:4 NIV

The grace of God that called me and carries me will restore me.

“Even to your old age and gray hairs
    I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
    I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”

Isaiah 46:4 NIV

He will confirm me-my faith will be made sight.

He will strengthen me.

“I can do all things through Christ[a] who strengthens me.”

Philippians 4:14 NKJV

He will establish  me.  

“You will be established in righteousness. You will be far from oppression, so you will not be afraid. You will be far from destruction, so it won’t come near you.”

Isaiah 54:14 GWT

And what God has done, no power can undo.

nothing can separate1

 

A Question of Trust: What About Signs?

It comes up often in bereavement groups:

What about signs from loved ones who have gone on to Heaven?  

What about books that tell stories of people who have been to Heaven yet “allowed to return”? 

What about cardinals and butterflies and feathers and dreams?  

It would be so very easy to allow my feelings to rule my heart and to reject the truth of Scripture. It would be less of a struggle to walk this Valley of the Shadow of Death if I could “talk” to Dominic while waiting to join him.

But the Bible is plain:  I cannot trust in anything or anyone but Jesus Christ. Every thing and every one else is fallible and will eventually lead me astray. 

I wrote this a few months ago and hope it’s helpful to other grieving parents:

Signs

I Am What I Am

The cartoon character Popeye responded to critics with “I am what I am”.

popeye-yam-spin

And while this phrase can be used to excuse all sorts of bad behavior, there is a ring of truth to it.

Every one of us is the sum of our experiences.  Each of us is hemmed in by what we know and how we are made.

We are more than the things that happen to us.  

But, in part, we are  Defined by Moments.