PROTECT THEM, LORD

I love you, Lord; you are my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and he saved me from my enemies. [Psalm 18:1-3 (NLT)]

grandchildIt was every parent’s nightmare; while the Dad was changing the toddler’s diaper, his four-year old daughter wandered away and disappeared in the zoo! We saw him as he was frantically asking people, “Did you see a little girl in a pink bike helmet?” As he went racing down the path toward the alligators and lions, we went toward the lemurs and play area. Fortunately that pink helmet made her easy to spot as she stood watching the black bears lumber through their enclosure. As we walked her back to her father, I said a prayer of thanksgiving that she would be returning home safely that day.

I thought of that anxious father the next day when reading Pearls Before Swine, a comic drawn by Stephan Pastis. Goat is extending sympathy to Pig for his grandma’s death when Pig carries him off. In the next few frames, Pig carts off his friends Duck and Cat. Next, we see all of Pig’s friends stuffed in a box under a sign saying, “SAFE PLACE WHERE I CAN KEEP AN EYE ON EVERYONE I LOVE SO NOTHING BAD CAN HAPPEN TO THEM.” The label on the box read, “Bad things stay away!” In the last frame, when Goat tries to explain that it doesn’t work that way, Pig just responds, “Don’t distract me. I’m standing guard.” Like Pig, I wish I could keep bad things from happening to those I love but I know I can’t. When my grands visit, determined that nothing bad is going to happen to them on my watch, I’m on high alert (and probably over protective). Of course, if parents and grandparents could, we’d erect a wall of protection around our loved ones to shield them, not just from death, but from heartache, injury, disappointment, and pain.

It would be a miracle if the worst that happens to that little girl is getting lost at the zoo and, while her pink bike helmet may protect her when she falls off her trike, it’s of little use elsewhere! We live in a fallen world: a world with disease, defiance, pain, sorrow, falseness, mistakes, greed, betrayal, loss, violence, malice, and death. Chances are that our children and grands will go further astray than just to the bears’ enclosure at the local zoo. Unlike Pig, we can’t stuff those we love in a box and stand guard over them night and day. Instead, we teach, encourage, warn, guide, lead, love, discipline, forgive, pray, equip them, and let them go. Although we provide them with God’s armor, we can’t make them accept or wear it.

We protect our gates, are cautious of what we allow into our homes, and stay alert to the dangers around us but what about when our loved ones leave home to lead their own lives? Many of the Psalms speak of God being a shield but that seems more figurative than literal. Although Shadrach, Mesach, and Abednego exited that fiery furnace unscathed, others weren’t that fortunate. Consider the fates of Stephen, the prophet Zechariah, John the Baptist, Jeremiah, Paul, and James! Sadly, there is no fool-proof way to protect our loved ones from Columbines or Sandy Hooks any more than we can from disappointment, grief, cancer, mental illness, rejection, failure, or death.

I used to ask God to be with my children and grands until I realized how silly my request was; He’s with them always! I now ask God to guard them from evil by making His presence known to them and His voice heard by them. As I pray God’s blessing of protection over my loved ones, I give them to Him, trusting that He will bring them safely home, if not in this world, then in the next!

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread your protection over them, that all who love your name may be filled with joy. For you bless the godly, O Lord; you surround them with your shield of love. [Psalm 5:11-12 (NLT)]

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LET’S PRAY

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. [1 Timothy 2:1 (NLT)]

snowy egretsThe eight of us were brainstorming a difficult and heartbreaking situation facing a family we know. We had plenty of ideas about getting them the assistance and guidance they needed but we could only direct them to the resources. They were the ones who needed to take action. Unfortunately, people often want the easy way out of their problems and desire money rather than counsel. Money, however, is usually only a stop gap measure and it frequently enables a bad situation to continue or get worse. The problem we were discussing required change, compromise, work and sacrifice far more than money. These people had to take action and, truth be told, I’m not so sure they wanted to step forward and act.

Those of us sitting around the table that day are people of action. Asking “What can I do? How can I help?” we wanted to roll up our sleeves, get to work, and make things right. This was one of those times, however, when there was nothing more we could do and no way we could make things right. There always will be hurts that we can’t heal, needs that we can’t satisfy, situations we can’t fix, and wrongs that we can’t make right. Sadly, this was one of them.

I learned something important that day, something even more important than understanding when it is time to step back from someone else’s problem. Our discussion had reached a dead end and we started repeating ourselves. At that point, we had a choice. We could beat a dead horse and keep talking which probably would have turned our constructive discussion into gossip and censure. On the other hand, we could stop and pray. Fortunately, understanding we were helpless onlookers and seeing we were dangerously close to becoming judge and jury, someone suggested prayer! Knowing we can’t fix everything but that we can love and pray for everyone, we prayed and handed the situation to God.

The thing I learned that day? While I’ve always believed in the power of prayer, I hadn’t realized the power of just saying, “Let’s pray!” Pausing for prayer changed the entire tenor of the discussion. The next time I’m in one of those conversations that starts to go downhill into the territory of gossip, disapproval, or scorn, I know to say, “Let’s pray!” Prayer can change more than situations and other people; it can change the people doing the praying!

If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. [James 1:26 (NLT)]

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. [Colossians 3:12-15 (NLT)]

Copyright ©2019 jsjdevotions. All rights reserved.