Devotions with Debbie
“But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.”Psalm 3:3
As I read this verse today, I began to ruminate on God being the lifter up of my head. On Google Images, I searched the words, “head down”. I wrote the impressions that came to my mind with each image: grief, shame, depression, weariness, despair, loneliness, discouragement, disappointment, guilt, fear, frustration, isolation, overwhelming stress, heartache, and pain. Then I searched the phrase, “look up”. In these images, I saw: comfort, optimism, hope, joy, looking for possibilities, inspiration, confidence, resolve, bravery, dawning comprehension, freedom, uninhibited, wonder, laughter, thoughtfulness, awe, and freedom. Wow, what a difference between a head that is down and a head that is lifted up! Then – word nerd that I am – I checked the definition of “lift up” in the dictionary and thesaurus. I found that this verse could be translated, “God excites, exhilarates, and elates me! He perks me up, boosts my morale, cheers me, and brightens my day. He rouses, develops, improves and refines me. The Lord lifts me up, and raises my spirit!”
Amen and hallelujah! I thought of many times in life when I have been “head down,” and have gone to God in prayer; how I have felt Him gently lift my chin and say, “Debbie, look at Me.” When I look up, I look straight into eyes of Love. Looking in His eyes, I remember who I am – Whose I am – and I know it’s going to be all right. This morning, I give praise to the God who is the lifter up of my head!
One Monday morning, I bounced into my 5th-grade classroom. Sunday’s night’s message had been about not letting anything take our praise. Pastor had told the story of David encouraging himself in the Lord, how he battled the Amalekites to regain his joy, and how he won the victory. It had been a dancing, shouting, aisle-running service, and I was still aglow.
The teacher separated the class into groups and gave us a project. As I worked, the gladness in my heart bubbled over into a soft song. Another girl said, “Please stop singing. I can’t concentrate.” Now as an adult, I understand the reasonableness of her request. But as a child, and in light of the previous night’s message, I took it as she was trying to silence my praise. I was NOT about to let some heathen child steal my victory! I began to sing again – just a bit louder – and changed my song to, “Oh, the children of the Lord have a RIGHT to shout and sing!”
Okay, so my understanding might have been lacking slightly, but you know what? I miss that girl, with her unabashed determination that nothing and nobody would silence her praise. We sing a song, “I’ve never lost my praise.” Unfortunately, that’s not true for me. At times I’ve allowed the enemy of my soul, the accuser of the brethren, to silence my worship. “How dare you try to praise God?” he would taunt. “I know all the mistakes you’ve made and how often you fall short. What makes you think God wants praise from a messed-up failure like you?” Other times, I’ve allowed the weight of tribulations and grief to slowly smother my joy. I am sure I am not the only one who’s, “Been there, done that.” The last few years have brought painful trials to many of our church family. But today is the day to reclaim our boldness in the Holy Ghost. This our season to shake off the spirit of heaviness and put on the garment of praise. It’s time to celebrate in the presence of the Lord!
The Psalmist David wrote, “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise.” (Psalm 57:7). He penned this avowal while hiding in a cave, on the run from King Saul. Doubtless, he battled discouragement, fear, and bitterness. But David placed his trust in God. The word “fixed” here means: steadfast, prepared, unwavering, resolved. David made a resolution, “I refuse to allow my enemies or my circumstance rob my of my worship. No matter what comes my way, I choose to delight myself in the Lord and find my strength in Him.” As we make our New Year’s resolutions for 2018, let’s follow David’s example and make this our own declaration for the coming year. Don’t take my praise!
This week, I trudged miserably through the drizzle to my car. Ice thickly coated my windshield. A raw wind blew through my jacket as I scraped off the car, chilling me to the bone. I grumbled, “I hate winter!” Just then, I caught a glimpse of green. My daffodils had sprouted! My heart leapt, for daffodils are the ambassadors of the springtime. They arrive onto a wintry stage. I have seen them bravely poke their little green heads right up out of the snow. But when the daffodils bloom, it is a certain sign that Old Man Winter is losing his icy grip on the Earth. Daffodils gently remind us, “Take heart! The world around you may look bleak right now. But within a few weeks, the spring rains will fall, the sun will shine again, and flowers will bud.” Daffodils are hope personified.
Lord, make me a daffodil to those around me, my life a testimony of how You bring beauty for ashes and joy for mourning. When my friends are in the winter of despair, may I speak warm words of hope. I want Your love to shine from my face, that those who see me will remember Your goodness. Help me to refresh others with the reminder of Your promises. Make me an ambassador of Your grace.
One day, I caught a ride from a friend whose windshield had recently shattered. As we passed through a dark tunnel, rows of lights illuminated the cracks until they sparkled like strands of tinsel. We exited the tunnel, and the blue sky drew my attention to a previously unnoticed spiderweb crack in the corner. Just then, the sun came from behind the clouds, backlighting it into incredible beauty. The segments shimmered in exquisite shades of lapis lazuli, sapphire, aquamarine, pearl, opal, and diamond. Every fractal was delicately outlined in tracings of gold and silver, and each point inlaid with a tiny Swarovski crystal. It reminded me of the most intricate piece of jewelry, a stunning stained-glass masterpiece. Every moment, I grew more fascinated: the fragmented windshield re-arranged each building, stop-light, and tree in ever-shifting colors and patterns, transforming the mundane into a world of extraordinary wonder. It was like being inside a giant kaleidoscope. Utterly enchanted, I nearly blurted out, “Man, I wish I had a cracked windshield!” Then I realized how absurd that sounded. It would be ridiculous to wish catastrophe upon us – but I surely was going to savor every moment of that ride!
Later that evening, I began to ponder on how this parallels life’s journey. We can be merrily riding along, and wham! Suddenly, tragedy strikes, shattering our vision, and filling our view with destruction. But then, the light of God’s love begins to shine on us. His grace irradiates our suffering until it becomes a luminous portal through which we glimpse His greatness. I reflected on various heart-wrenching trials of my past, and how I now count them among my most cherished memories, for it was in those moments that I truly learned to know Him.
Little did I realize that day that God had given me this windshield revelation for a reason. He was providing me with a precious precept to hold on to in the coming months. The following week, my husband went in for what was supposed to be a simple surgery. A few days later, we got the phone call that would shatter our immediate future: “It’s cancer.” Our world imploded, blurred, became discombobulated. Jagged splinters of reality pierced through the daze: “rare and aggressive melanoma,” “surgery” “radiation, chemo, experimental drugs,” “tumor in the lymph nodes” “stage 3 cancer.” We were stunned, bewildered, devasted. Because of the rarity of this cancer, my husband’s oncologist sent us to MD Anderson in Houston, a nine-hour drive for us. As I watched the sunrise through my car window that first trip, I recalled the illustration of the shattered windshield, and clung to that promise.
Glimmers of God’s grace began to penetrate through our desolation. Every time we grew afraid, His presence instantly enveloped us, holding us as a father embraces his frightened child. He led us to encouraging verses at just the right moment. Just a few are:
“Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee.” (Ps. 55:22)
“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Is. 41:10)
“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:” (Is. 26:3-4)
Day by day, He uplifted us. Never have I felt His presence in a sweeter way than through this ordeal. Truly, He has given us a peace that passes all understanding. This is a not a trial I ever wanted to go through. I can’t wait for it to be over. I don’t know what the future holds; I am writing this from the waiting room at the oncologist. We hold strong faith for his healing, but only God knows what lies ahead. But this much I know: He has given us incredible joy in this journey. Logically, I know that this should be the hardest thing we’ve ever been through, but honestly, He has surrounded us until all I can see is His glory. He has transfigured our brokenness into beauty. I am ready for Him to fix our situation, but until He does, I am going to sit back, trust Him, and marvel at the wondrous handiwork He has wrought through it.