Mothers for Prodigals

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Blessings in the Barren Land

Five years ago my heart poured out sorrows and blessings while walking through a dark valley. May you be encouraged by my experience and God's Word. Below is a poem I wrote and scripture references follow.

There are blessings in the barren land.
The desert’s all aglow
Of willing hearts and helping hands
That cause God’s love to flow.
He takes each of us personally
To a place of abandonment,
And there we empty self,
As our minds to Him are bent.
The threshing-floor may be the site
Where we’re beaten, broken, bruised,
Until as finest flour
For bread we are used.
God may set as lumps of clay
Our forms on the potter’s wheel,
Where we surrender to every touch;
His Hands stamp His seal.
The fiery furnace may be the test
Where impurities surface.
Burdened by blistering trials,
Forging glorious jewels with purpose.
As some walk along the wilderness trail,
Broken hearts emerge.
Others who discern God’s promises
Hold hands while sorrows purge.
God intends that we climb mountains
And rise to heights of glory.
Then we’ll be equipped and ready
With others to share His love story!
DDC February 20, 2006

Matthew 3:7-12, Isaiah 64:1-12, 
Psalm 66:8-12, Habakkuk 3:17-19

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Focused Path

Use your imagination and get into a row boat with me. We push out onto the lake and begin rowing toward the other side. A strong wind suddenly whips up and we are rowing against the current, trying to get to our destination. All of us are frightened as we realize our strength is gone and we’ve rowed in circles. Panic sets in and tension builds. Nerves become frayed as we ineffectively row. While most are frightened, someone in the back begins praying and someone else yells, “Look over there.” Coming toward us is a man, walking on water. Everyone stares with unbelief until the face is recognizable—Jesus! Our Savior appears again within our storm.
That’s basically what happened to the disciples in Mark 6:45-51 (NASB). Read the account:
Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side to Bethsaida, while He Himself was sending the crowd away. After bidding them farewell, He left for the mountain to pray. When it was evening, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and He was alone on the land. Seeing them straining at the oars, for the wind was against them, at about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea; and He intended to pass by them. But when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed that it was a ghost, and cried out; for they all saw Him and were terrified. But immediately He spoke with them and said to them, “Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.” Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished, for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened.
How many times has Jesus told you to move on, get in your boat, step out in faith, keep living life, don’t give up? Even if you were obedient at that moment, when a storm came up, did you panic, did you doubt, did you give up? Did you forget the last miracle He performed in your life or fail to comprehend what He tried to teach you at Bible study?
The disciples had just seen five thousand people fed from only five loaves of bread and two fish (Mark 6:32-44). Jesus performed a miracle in order to feed a hungry multitude. After all were fed, Jesus told His disciples to get in the boat and go ahead of Him to Bethsaida. He needed to be alone in prayer. They had a chance to put faith into action and failed. But Jesus, full of love and compassion, stepped into their storm to deliver them from all their fears. He performed yet another miracle before their very eyes.
We are no different than the men who walked with Jesus every day. Time and time again He revealed His faithfulness to the disciples, just as He does for us today. When we’ve seen how faithful He is, why do we take our eyes off of Him when faced with another hardship? He’s proven He can calm any storm that enters our lives. Will we ever totally trust Jesus?
Learning to completely trust Jesus is not just a process but it’s the goal He has purposed for us. He wants us to depend on Him and His power now. “Your will be done, Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10 (NIV) Jesus prayed and daily lived out this prayer, depending on the power of His heavenly Father. He kept His eyes on His Father even in the awful circumstances of the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-45). He knew eternal life awaited for Him, but He also knew it mattered how He got there. His earthly existence had to point to a higher power so that all could see the glory of His heavenly Father as He walked through His life and gruesome death.
Do we understand how important it is to completely trust in our heavenly Father as we walk through this process called life, regardless of our circumstances? Believing in Jesus and His salvation grants us the prize of eternal life, but does it stop there? Once we give our hearts to Jesus, do we simply live life as usual or do we live transformed lives? Paul tells us in Romans 12:1-2 (NIV) how to live:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
What does that mean? Paul tells us that if we have the mind of Christ, we will not be tossed to and fro in the world by our culture or our circumstances. If we are transformed by the salvation of Jesus Christ, our lives will reflect His shining light into the situations that surround us. God’s glory will be revealed to the world and His purpose in us will be accomplished.
So how do we remain faithful and calm in the midst of the storms of life or our own personal turmoil? We focus on our heavenly Father as Jesus did. When Jesus accomplished the Father’s will and left this earth, the Father and Son blessed all believers with the Holy Spirit to comfort and guide life on earth. We have a three-in-one God who walks toward us in the midst of our storms. With our eyes centered on Him instead of our circumstances, our lives become a shining example of our good God and His glory. Others will look upon our lives and be drawn to our Savior. Through us His kingdom descends upon this earth and His will is done like it is in heaven.
Trust Jesus and remain steadfast. Stand firm in the strength of God’s power now. No matter how tumultuous your situation, focus on Jesus and see Him walking on water toward you. He desires for your life to radiate His love into the lives of others, revealing His glory. Just as Abraham believed and trusted in God for a promise, may you also walk in faith, trusting in His promises for you. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. Romans 4:20-21 (NIV)
Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-7 (NIV)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tears in a Bottle

Have you ever collected anything and put it in a bottle? I remember as a child asking my mom on several occasions for a jar to collect lightning bugs (fireflies) with my sisters. We poked holes in the lid so their lights wouldn’t go out; we didn’t want the first ones in the jar to die while we accumulated as many as we could. When night time fell, we watched them light up the container until we released them.
I also collected rocks. Carefully I inspected each rock that caught my attention and placed it in a container. I saved these rocks for years as I planned on creating a display box of rocks. Eventually I lost interest in the rocks and returned them to their natural setting.
Here are two incidents where I amassed things for my enjoyment and satisfaction. Did you know that God is also a collector and that He collects for our satisfaction, not His own? What in the world does God collect in order to satisfy me, you might be asking?
Read Psalm 56 (NKJV) –a prayer for relief from tormentors– and discover what God puts in a bottle.

Be merciful to me, O God, for man would swallow me up;
Fighting all day he oppresses me.
My enemies would hound me all day,
For there are many who fight against me, O Most High.
Whenever I am afraid,
I will trust in You.
In God (I will praise His word),
In God I have put my trust;
I will not fear.
What can flesh do to me?
All day they twist my words;
All their thoughts are against me for evil.
They gather together,
They hide, they mark my steps,
When they lie in wait for my life.
Shall they escape by iniquity?
In anger cast down the peoples, O God!

You number my wanderings;
Put my tears into Your bottle;
Are they not in Your book?
When I cry out to You,
Then my enemies will turn back;
This I know, because God is for me.
In God (I will praise His word),
In the LORD (I will praise His word),
In God I have put my trust;
I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?
Vows made to You are binding upon me, O God;
I will render praises to You,
For You have delivered my soul from death.
Have You not kept my feet from falling,
That I may walk before God
In the light of the living?
Tears? God collects my tears! What a compassionate God we have to be so attentive to our every pain, every tear.
David wrote this psalm out of the fear of earthly kings that pursued his life. David had been commissioned to play the harp for King Saul in order to soothe his distressed spirit. Saul grew to love David and appointed him as armorbearer. When David heard about a Philistine defying the armies of the living God, he asked Saul to let him go fight the giant. Saul wanted to send David to fight dressed in his armor, but David refused to wear the armor. He went to face Goliath with only a slingshot and the help of the one and only God. David killed that giant, with God’s help. Can you imagine the news that spread about this incident? Because of David’s triumph, Saul became jealous. Even while David served him, King Saul’s insecurities grew. Eventually David’s life was threatened and he ran away, hiding from Saul. In the midst of his refuge, David found himself captive in the hands of a Philistine ruler, the king of Gath. David pretended madness in order for the king to let him go. Read about these events in 1 Samuel 16-21.
What feelings stirred in David’s heart as he fled and hid from danger? Was he afraid? Of course, he’s human, right? Did he trust God with his life? Again, of course! God regularly exhibited His might in David’s life. When David said, “In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (56:11), he believed it. He had faced a giant and won!
What comes first: man’s trust or God’s provision? David’s life gives us the answer. David trusted God so much that he went before a GIANT, armed with only a slingshot yet filled with the power of God, and won the battle. God showed up because David trusted Him.
How much do you trust God? Are you focused on His provision or you dire circumstances? He will reveal Himself when you step out in faith. David’s life is proof. In spite of all David’s weaknesses, God loved him because he was a “man after God’s own heart.” (1 Samuel 13:14)
Are you a woman after God’s own heart? Are you so sensitive to His will that nothing can stop you from trusting Him? Read Romans 8:31-39 (NKJV) to encourage you to trust God.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written:
“ For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Why do we worry and fear when faced with awful situations? We serve a God who puts every single tear that we cry into His bottle. And He doesn’t return them “to the wild.” He holds them in His Hand (just as our prayers are kept in a golden bowl of incense - Revelation 5:8) waiting for the right time—His time— to settle matters with our enemies. So cry out to Him. He doesn’t dismiss those tears. He’s put them in a bottle for a time only He can discern. We serve a trustworthy God!
Reread Psalm 34 (from last week) which proclaims the happiness of those who trust in God.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

My Friend Calms Fears

The morning of October 23, 1983 shook me to my core. Instead of being filled with anticipation for our upcoming 4th anniversary and our firstborn’s 2nd birthday, I was terrified. The news rocked this young mom’s world.
Being the dutiful stay-at-home mom, I had fixed my husband’s breakfast, ironed his shirt, and sent him on his way to work. After feeding my son and cleaning up the kitchen, I turned on the TV to catch the news before we played with some of his toys. Breaking news affirmed a bombing in Beirut, Lebanon had left 299 American and French servicemen dead. Some organization called Islamic jihad (not yet a household word) had claimed responsibility for the attack. I was stunned! I swiftly turned the channel to Sesame Street so that my son could watch his favorite characters in action and I could ease my mind with distraction. Later after playing outside, doing a load of laundry, and eating lunch, midday summoned a rocking chair, a book, and a nap. Finally he settled down to rest. Shutting my son’s door, I ran to my room to catch up on some quiet time with my Friend. We had to a talk about that bombing.
Life had changed for me since giving birth. My son occupied so much of my time (he didn’t like to sleep) that my bone-weary body usually napped whenever he did. I had also reached awareness of the stress that manifested itself in my life when I failed to spend daily time with my best Friend, Jesus. Keeping Him in the forefront of our lives usually dispelled tension. Early morning before everyone arose or naptime (if I could stay awake) had been set aside for conversation with God.
Entering my room, I opened my Bible and my devotional. The death of all those young men in Lebanon plagued my mind. Some mothers in America and France, whose sons served in the military, would be receiving heartbreaking news of their sons’ deaths. Now that I had given birth to a boy, fear flooded my mind. What if—I couldn’t bear to think of it. I opened my devotional and began crying out to God.
Having missed two days of quiet time, I read the devotion dated two days earlier. There’s nothing coincidental about God’s answer to our prayers. He had intended for me to read that particular message for the very day I read it. Not only did God bless me with a soothing answer to my fears, He taught me that He cares enough to answer my prayers through a familiar source. He covered me with His love, and our relationship intensified that day! Below is what I read:
I will extol the LORD at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the LORD;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the LORD with me;
let us exalt his name together.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the LORD heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.
Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the LORD, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from telling lies.
Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,
and his ears are attentive to their cry;
but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to blot out their name from the earth.
The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the LORD delivers him from them all;
he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.
Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
The LORD will rescue his servants;
no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.
Psalm 34 (NIV)
Imagine crying out to God, laying your fears at His feet, and reading His answer in verses 4-7. I immediately experienced His amazing grace. The more I read, the more I became convinced that my Friend remains close by and desires to wash away my fears. He’s the kind of Friend that all people need; He can be trusted.
David knew to offer praises to His Lord before any other words proceeded from his mouth. Jesus teaches us the same format in The Lord’s Prayer. Together let’s adore our Heavenly Father and give Him glory using the first three verses in Psalm 34. Then let’s allow God to speak to our hearts, answering our prayers as only He knows how.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.” Psalm 34:8

Monday, August 1, 2011

MPs on the Watch

A - Adoration - Give God the glory! Ephesians 3:14-21

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21

C - Confession - Confess our sins! 1 John 1:5-9

This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

T - Thanksgiving - Give Him thanks! Psalm 50:14, Psalm 107:22

Offer to God thanksgiving, And pay your vows to the Most High.
Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, And declare His works with rejoicing.
S - Supplication - Offer up supplications! Philippians 4:6-7
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
“Call upon Me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.”
Psalm 50:15