Today, a talented young writer, Joelle Denoff, is guest blogging – I wanted to share her wisdom and her love with all of you. May you be blessed.
I recall as a child always looking to my parents for protection when I felt vulnerable or scared. Specifically my mother. She was blessed to stay at home with my brothers and I while my Dad provided for all of us.
Most children have fond memories of their mother being their protector and the person they could run to in time of need. I wasn’t any different. However, in the midst of my teenage years, protection felt more like restriction. I was old enough to know to not do things like touch a hot stove top or run out in to traffic. But there were other dangers. These became a burden for my mom that led her into being an even more intense prayer warrior. (Sex, drugs, alcohol, gossip, greed, jealousy, trust in the wrong people, etc.) The list could go on forever for a teenager – not to mention driving a car with all the other crazy motorists on the road!
I wasn’t the extremely careful type and many of the previously listed transgressions plagued me on a daily basis. And guess what? A mother knows. She knew about the dangers and pitfalls of all of these things. Turns out she was also a real person – one that had been young and mostly unprotected at times.
I was blessed to be raised in a household that sought God’s protection on a daily basis, and this was passed down to me as well. You see, even though quite a few of my mom’s attempts to protect me were thwarted by my rebellious and curious nature, God was still there to fill in the gaps. That is ultimately the prayer of a mother’s heart. Where she cannot protect, God will take care of the rest. I put myself in countless situations where the outcome would have been far less than favorable and yet, I believe, that through my mother’s steadfast prayers, God’s protection always won out against my own path. And it always will.
There have been times where I sought God’s protection myself and surely felt it. Whether in the midst of some situation or shortly thereafter, I knew that I could seek God and He would be my shelter. “You are my hiding place; You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance,” (Psalms 32:7 NICV). The reason that I knew that God was my best and safest source of protection was because of my mother. She not only exemplified who God was in her protective ways, but she also bound that protection on me through daily Scripture readings. She knew that through repetition and the Holy Spirit, I would remember that I could run to Him for protection.
A mother’s love is so intertwined with her need to protect her child. Now I am acutely aware of this – for I have a child of my own. Though we have many years to look forward to (he is only six months old), I find myself already constantly praying for protection over his body, mind, and spirit. “Love ALWAYS protects” (1 Corinthians 13:7 NIV) My prayer for my son is that he will be a quicker learner than his mother – or maybe he won’t have to learn nearly as many lessons as I did. I pray that wisdom will be with him early, through the knowledge passed down from his mother.
Ultimately, protection is God’s gift to every mother that seeks it for her child. It doesn’t always look the way we would like it to, and it certainly doesn’t mean that bad things won’t happen. But it does mean that your child is not lost forever. God’s love and His protection is the ultimate Mother’s Day gift for me.
Sounds simple: let yourself be loved. I think we make it about looks, or smarts, or what we have – trying to be loved for who we think we should be.
Before school age, children have no concept of this. They just are – take ‘em or leave ‘em, but oh how they thrive on being loved.
Probably one of the reasons Jesus welcomed children – no agendas, just wanting to bask in His love. And there it is: His love. So immense. “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these’.” (Matthew 19:14 NIV)
Yet daily I complicate it. I look in the mirror and hate the loss of youth. Men in our lives look at their position or bank account and count themselves losers. Teens cave to pressure and do the drugs, or sex, or latest whatever just wanting to be loved for themselves.
It’s the great lie from the great deceiver. Always whispering ‘not good enough’.
Just remember: “Children, you belong to God, and you have defeated these enemies. God’s Spirit is in you and is more powerful than the one who is in the world.” (1John 4:4 CEV)
With God it’s not our ‘good enough’. The Father doesn’t withhold His love for any reason. So much loving the world – He was willing to let His Son die for it.
Ugly and sinful. Ungrateful and selfish. A world full of broken hearts. But the Mender came. Cupping faces of unsightly and calling them beautiful. Holding hands of outcasts and telling them they belong. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3 NIV)
Lifting us out of all that pulls us down – brushing aside tears and staring in our eyes. ‘Be loved my little one, for you are my beloved.’
Ever have one of those? A Monday – the one you weren’t expecting but thought you had all planned?
Not too long ago Tuesday was supposed to be a blue sky, low temp, low humidity South Florida day (those get rarer this time of year). I was excited to have my grandson that day and had big plans. But on Monday I decided some heavy duty scrubbing was needed.
Before evening came I was gritting my teeth, wondering how I would even walk behind a two year old, let alone pick him up. Funny how easily our world ‘falls apart’. Sometimes the least thing and all the doubts surface. I’m thinking we must make Jesus sigh an awful lot. “He sighed deeply and said, ‘Why does this generation ask for a sign?’ “ (Mark 8:12a NIV) We’re no different than when He spoke that 2,000 years ago.
Doubt – universal. We doubt ourselves, we doubt those close to us, we doubt those in power, we doubt foreigners, we doubt God. It’s true. Hard as it is to admit, I do doubt the Father – in my weak moments.
It is in those moments He reminds me: His strength, not mine. His ways, not my ideas. His perfect love, not my conditional love.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17 NIV)
This year is marching on and I’m trying not to look back and assess what did or didn’t happen. Trying not to be anxious about what will or won’t happen in the next eight months. Living in the now is His call to our hearts. Every moment precious. Living thanks for wonders, joy, peace – and for the hard too.
I don’t want to be doubting Paris – I want to be trusting, faithful – free. We’re captives, enslaved, when we let anxiousness take over. We’re free when we take God at His Word. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)
I love a celebration – but sometimes in the hurry and scurry meaning is lost. What remains (and was there before) is a whole lot better.
Chocolate bunnies and plastic baskets are done. What’s left? The miracle and the sacrifice. I’m pondering these things so I can learn to live them better.
The day set aside is our remembrance – a way to pass on generation to generation. But in the quiet moments of early morn, or in the ruckus of the everyday – can we find a way to live Resurrection daily? Jesus was raised, and so were we. “And with Him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.” (Colossians 2:12b NLT)
God, who is outside of time, has told those bound by it – ‘through Jesus you are held in eternity now’.
This is a mystery because our minds are so concrete. How can we be here and raised with Him? How can He be at the Father’s right hand and in our hearts? How can our sin be separated and we be made righteous when tomorrow (or maybe the next moment) we will outright do the wrong thing – again? “How far has the LORD taken our sins from us? Farther than the distance from east to west! “ (Psalm 103:12 CEV)
That is the true beauty of the Resurrection. For nothing is impossible with God. He made a way, He followed through, and we are new/eternal/secure.
Too often I get lost in the ‘what if’ that may not happen – do you? I fret and wonder how will this all work out? Lately I’m realizing that the ‘work out’ – is my ideas of how things should be, what it will take, how it will look. But then I remember God is not bound by my ideas and His are immensely better – not only for my concerns, but yours.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9 NIV) This requires one thing – faith. And even that is His free gift. There is never a price for us to pay, He’s paid it all. What’s left? The very best, it was always there and it always will be: Jesus.
Easter – there is no more momentous event. Someone, a perfect Someone, was willing to make the absolute sacrifice – making it possible for you and me…to live forever.
What kind of crazy love is that? The best, the only true. I’m thinking about that week leading up to Him hanging on a cross. I’m wondering as the murmurings increased, as evil crowded in, as those twelve dear disciples journeyed with Him – was there a restlessness that set in?
Jesus was busy: “Jesus spent those days teaching in the Temple, and when evening came, He would go out and spend the night on the Mount of Olives.” (Luke 21:37 GNT)
Jesus, the human side, must have felt the weight. Jesus, the God side, knew His work was about finished. All those He loved (from before His time on earth, those during His time on earth, and all of us who have come after) were His focus.
Souls so lost and separated from God. Did He sigh? Knowing how hard this earth would be for us to navigate. I think He also smiled, knowing that not one who loves Him would be separated from Him. “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” (John 20:19 NIV)
I get restless. I hear reports of babies that never got to live out their days. I see evil strike terror in hearts. I feel soul sadness at how mixed up we all are in how we view each other, treat each other.
And there is much we don’t see, for we are so self-focused. The spiritual realm all around us teems with battles between good and evil. All creation here moans waiting for the final redemption.
Waiting – that’s the restlessness. Knowing this isn’t all there is and wondering ‘can we hold on til our Someday?’ So being restless isn’t so bad after all, for in that sensing that things aren’t right yet, in the waiting for the Return – we must seek the Source that stills our anxiousness and reminds us: He is Risen! “Christ died and was raised to life, and now he is at God’s right side, speaking to Him for us.” (Romans 8:34 CEV) Happy Easter indeed.
Lots of things I want to hear: ‘you look great’, ‘good job’, ‘I’ll take care of it’ – and the list could go on.
I’m learning (very slowly) to check my words before they tumble out. But I’m also learning to listen and see if they are truth. My friends, my hubby, my sweet children, and my perfect grandchildren don’t need words that don’t have the weight of truth – and the security of truth – and the freedom of truth.
God loves us enough to tell us what we need to hear – no fluff. And found in every verse – every carefully chosen word – there’s perfect love. Only a perfect love can speak to our hearts and make them confident, make them secure, make them soar free. “There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear.” (1John 4:18 GNT)
This isn’t an easy thing. I would much rather open my Bible and read along only to find the Holy Spirit telling my heart ‘good job, Paris’ – instead of ‘hmm, maybe think about things this way next time’. But that ever so quiet prompting not only changes us, it makes us useful to others.
I tell my grandson on our forays outside: ‘listen to the wind’, ‘do you hear that bird’, ‘the thunder goes boom’. He listens, sometimes cradling his ear. Then I whisper ‘Jesus put those sounds there’. He did – to get our attention – to make us stop – for just a moment. “My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish–ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:27-28 HCSB)
We’re heading towards Easter – a celebration that no one should miss. This is grander by far than anything we celebrate, and yet, we sometimes lose it in the baskets and candy. About two thousand years ago the words we need to hear were spoken: “Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30 NIV)
And then, “He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay.” (Matthew 28:6 NIV) Maybe if we keep these words ever constant in our thoughts we won’t long for the words of this world and will rest in the Words eternal.
So I’ve been doing this thing, most mornings. I got an old hymnal (btw I can’t sing…at least not well). Starting with hymn one I’ve been listening to and singing along.
A joyful noise for God only. Because there’s something about praising Him. Each one has deep truths, much joy, and is a tune to carry us through the day. I’ve learned that through the ages our sorrows have not changed, happiness is fleeting – but joy is always ours.
Pick up any Bible and turn to about the middle and you will find yourself in Psalms. Songs for God, about God, longing for God, needing God, praising God – songs for thirsty souls. “O God, You are my God, earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You, my body longs for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1 NIV)
I came across one that somehow I knew – it’s an old one and the guy on YouTube said ‘your grandmothers probably love this one’. Not having grown up in church I don’t know why it was so familiar. The title is Wonderful Grace of Jesus, and in the chorus it says ‘all sufficient grace for even me‘.
Even me. Even you. Yes, all our baggage isn’t too heavy for God – and all our shortcomings can be used by our big picture God. “What if He did this to make the riches of His glory known to the objects of His mercy, whom He prepared in advance for glory – even us, whom He also called” (Romans 9:23-24 NIV)
Have a past you wish you didn’t? Guess what, it’s been wiped clean. Living a hard, heartache you don’t know if you can endure? You can’t, but He will see you through. And some sweet day – all of it won’t even be a distant memory.
Because some day, not so long from now, we will see Him face to face. “For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; the upright will see his face.” (Psalm 11:7 NIV) For a fleeting moment we may wonder ‘even us?’ – but He speaks “Always you”.
Sometimes things aren’t what they seem. Like teen boys putting on a manly persona – one foot still in childhood and the other ready to make their way in the world.
We begin life thinking the universe revolves around us. Somewhere along the way we realize that isn’t so, but we still feel secure. Unless – love hasn’t been abundant. Then we make hard shells around ourselves. Like a cocoon we break out at some designated date as ‘adults’. This is what I see in far too many these days.
They indeed may be successful in business, career, or academics. They’ll tell you they’re living the dream. But what is the dream?
Big money, fame, power, photo perfect bodies? This is what our world would have us believe. Then why so empty and still trying to fill the hole? Dreams based on satisfaction found in what ‘we’ can attain are always short lived. Because, once attained, we move on to what’s next.
Even those with the least self-serving dreams here on earth will only find their fulfillment in the One whose way is narrow. For only He can mend hearts, end bigotry, make bodies whole and healthy, fulfill longings that never seem to be met.
What if living the dream wasn’t things, but a kingdom? No, not castles and servants and whims – God’s kingdom. The one that has no more sorrows or death. “What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever.” (1Corinthians 15:50 NLT)
How to reach young hearts before they lose heart? How to reach hearts so calloused there seems to be no hope? The Word of God. It’s powerful – and it is not up to us to decide if the timing is right. It’s never a waste of time to speak life. If a heart doesn’t accept it today, do we not trust God can use it in their future? “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16 NIV)
We only live in regret when we don’t speak the gift we have – for though man may find it foolishness, it is their very lifeblood. Living the dream – for God’s child it means living in confidence that no matter what happens in the here and now, perfect somedays are awaiting us. It also means making sure those hearts around us don’t miss out.
A lazy spring day, long lunch with a friend, the perfect vacation – things we wish wouldn’t end.
It’s hard for us humans – endings. Simple things like a beautiful day are one thing but the death of a sweet friend? Unless…it’s not the end but a forever beginning.
A couple thousand years ago Daniel lived in a foreign land where those climbing the royal ladder lurked with traps. Daniel was oh so faithful to God and a reliable servant to King Darius. But a trap was set with a penalty of being put in the lion’s den – a gruesome, fear-filled way to die. The trap: any man who prays to any god or man except for King Darius, lion food. Daniel knew the decree but “Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to God, just as he had done before.” (Daniel 6:10b NIV)
When Daniel was hauled off he could have thought it was the end, begged for leniency. No resistance. Daniel knew what you and I need to grab hold of and not let go: God is with us. If we die in this world, we are still with Him. If the lion’s mouths are shut, we can still praise Him.
This is the truth about death when it comes to a child of God most high: “And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.” (Daniel 6:23b NIV)
Life may scar us outwardly. The world may wound us inwardly. But someday we will be lifted out of the den and we will be whole and clean and found blameless. Because this is our Jesus promise: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 NIV)
The no end beginning for Daniel? The king issued a new decree – ‘in every part of the kingdom people must reverence the God of Daniel’. “For He is the living God and He endures forever; His kingdom will not be destroyed, His dominion will never end. He rescues and He saves; He performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth.” (Daniel 6:26-27 NIV)
You, me – we have the living God who is never ending. He rescues and saves us – now and forever.
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