Mothers for Prodigals

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hope in Distress

“I’ll praise you in this storm...” inspired me when I daily walked a painful path years ago. The song by Casting Crowns lifted me up as I grieved my dad and worried about my daughter’s life choices. My life seemed like a nightmare! (But praise be to God my daughter is making God-choices now!)

At times our lives are full of misery. Other times our lives are overflowing with happiness. It’s the ebb and flow of life’s happenings. When happiness peaks, we tend to go about our merry way. When misery hits rock bottom, we tend to fall apart at the seams. What do we do? Where do we go? Who do we turn to?

Jesus is the only answer. Sounds trite, like a Sunday School answer, but it’s the truth! Jesus is the only answer and His comforting words fill the Scriptures. The following Psalms helped me through some dark times; notice the headings of each Psalm. Meditate on the joy and sorrow found in God’s Word and allow hope to flow into your heart and soul.

Yearning for God in the Midst of Distresses
As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
While they continually say to me,
“Where is your God?”

When I remember these things,
I pour out my soul within me.
For I used to go with the multitude;
I went with them to the house of God,
With the voice of joy and praise,
With a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast.

Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance.

O my God, my soul is cast down within me;
Therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan,
And from the heights of Hermon,
From the Hill Mizar.
Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls;
All Your waves and billows have gone over me.
The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime,
And in the night His song shall be with me—
A prayer to the God of my life.

I will say to God my Rock,
“Why have You forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
As with a breaking of my bones,
My enemies reproach me,
While they say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”

Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God. 
Psalm 42 (NKJV)

Prayer to God in Time of Trouble
Vindicate me, O God,
And plead my cause against an ungodly nation;
Oh, deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man!
For You are the God of my strength;
Why do You cast me off?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?

Oh, send out Your light and Your truth!
Let them lead me;
Let them bring me to Your holy hill
And to Your tabernacle.
Then I will go to the altar of God,
To God my exceeding joy;
And on the harp I will praise You,
O God, my God.

Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God. 
Psalm 43 (NKJV)

Remember God didn't say all things are good, but that He works all for good to those who love Him!

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.  Romans 8:28 (NKJV)

Let hope soothe your pain and remember God has a purpose for your life. Don’t allow the ugliness of your present circumstancs to guide you. God is in charge of your past, your present, and your future. If your way of life has been lighthearted and almost carefree, don’t neglect Him—praise Him in your joy! If your human condition has been full of suffering and despair—praise Him, praise Him in your storm! Praise Him always along life’s way. Follow always the path of the One who’s perfect plan for you is peace, His peace that passes all understanding. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Help Us, Lord!

Have you ever heard this saying—you’re only as happy as your saddest child? For a mother’s heart this is so true as she reflects on the life of the child that she delivered. What if her child loves a controlling boyfriend/girlfriend? What if her child is addicted to drugs/alcohol? What if her child has disabilities/special needs? What if her child suffers an accident and becomes permanently handicapped? What if her child is afflicted by a physical/mental disease? What if her child declares he/she is a homosexual? What if her child lies far away and she’s unable to help when situations go awry? What if her child is dead? What if...what if...what if? Is it possible to be happy? Is it possible to help her child get happy? Can God deliver her from the fears surrounding her life? Can God deliver her child from captivity? Help her, Lord God!

God’s Word is full of His promises and His faithfulness to His people. The prophets tell us how He loved and restored Israel and Judah from sin and captivity. Can we take these same promises and apply them to our lives? The Bible as a whole relays to us how much He loves all of us and desires to restore us all. When life looks daunting and dismal and fears assail us, what are we to do with God’s promises? Will He be faithful to us as He was to Israel?

Through the centuries, the Israelites experienced much hardship due to the circumstances of life as well as their own sin. God delivered them from the hands of the Egyptians and once the celebrations ended, they only saw their harsh situation in the desert. How quickly they forgot God’s salvation! Over the years they either encountered God’s blessings or His curses, all due to their obedience or disobedience. Many of the prophets declared to them the promises of a faithful God who loved them. Did the Israelites cling to those promises or did they lose hope? Do we cling to those promises or do we daily live with hopelessness?

Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet and wrote the book of Jeremiah and Lamentations. God called him to warn His people to change their ways before it was too late. Because they didn’t listen, catastrophe overtook them. Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed, and while Jeremiah lamented the destruction, he also helped his people in their time of need. Not only did he encourage them with the love of the Heavenly Father, he also pointed them to a path leading to restoration and redemption. He declared to them that one day God would make a new covenant with His people and write His law upon their hearts. 

Jeremiah 31 speaks of God’s restoration and I encourage you to read the entire chapter. It’s a long chapter filled with promise. Even though I’m citing only several verses, I pray you will be uplifted by the word of God through Jeremiah (NASB).

Thus says the Lord,
“The people who survived the sword
Found grace in the wilderness—
Israel, when it went to find its rest.”
The Lord appeared to him from afar, saying,
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.
vs. 1-3

Our Lord loves us with an endless love and is compassionate and tenderhearted toward us!

Hear the word of the Lord, O nations,
And declare in the coastlands afar off,
And say, “He who scattered Israel will gather him
And keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.”
For the Lord has ransomed Jacob
And redeemed him from the hand of him who was stronger than he.
vs. 10-11

Our Shepherd redeems us from the hand of our enemies and watches over us!

“Then the virgin will rejoice in the dance,
And the young men and the old, together,
For I will turn their mourning into joy
And will comfort them and give them joy for their sorrow.
“I will fill the soul of the priests with abundance,
And My people will be satisfied with My goodness,” declares the Lord.
vs. 13-14

Our Savior will comfort us, turning our mourning into joy. Our Savior will fill us with His abundance and His goodness! He will bless us with His Spirit and grace.

Thus says the Lord,
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
Lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
She refuses to be comforted for her children,
Because they are no more.”

Ramah is a place in Canaan where the Israelites were either set free, put to death, or carried away to Babylon by their enemies; lamentations were offered for their sufferings. Rachel, the wife of Jacob and mother of Joseph and Benjamin, was buried near Ramah. It’s as if she had risen from the dead to grieve over the troubles of the Jewish nation. How can she or the Israelites be comforted?

Thus says the Lord,
“Restrain your voice from weeping
And your eyes from tears;
For your work will be rewarded,” declares the Lord,
“And they will return from the land of the enemy.
“There is hope for your future,” declares the Lord,
“And your children will return to their own territory.

Amidst the tears and turmoil, God declares the return of the Jewish nation to their homeland and gives them hope for their future! If we have eternal hope, all of our temporal afflictions can be endured. In the midst of our sufferings, God extends His mercy to us.

“Set up for yourself roadmarks,
Place for yourself guideposts;
Direct your mind to the highway,
The way by which you went.

We must follow the way of Christ. He died in our place for our salvation. He will direct our path. We must trust Him and walk in it!

For I satisfy the weary ones and refresh everyone who languishes.” vs. 25
Are you feeling weak in body and spirit? Are you deteriorating mentally? Are you experiencing hardship or suffering neglect? Do you feel forgotten? Well, have no fear; God is here by your side desiring to satisfy and refresh your soul!  
Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. 
Surely my soul remembers
And is bowed down within me.
This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope. 
The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail. 
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness. 
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the person who seeks Him.
It is good that he waits silently
For the salvation of the Lord.
Lamentations 3:19-26 (NASB)

Even though you may be suffering greatly, the Lord God has blessed you with hope through His Word (and He’s a man of His word). We have hope because His compassions never fail and they are new every morning. Trust Him—He is faithful! 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Undivided Hearts

Compromise—at times that action may be necessary between warring nations or even a husband and wife, meeting halfway and making a deal. Other times it may mean a weakening of resolve or damaging a reputation. Take a look at words synonymous to compromise: undermine, weaken, damage, harm; jeopardize, prejudice; discredit, dishonor, shame, embarrass. Now think about your relationship with your Heavenly Father. Is it compromised in any way?

Have you ever made deals with God? Or have you ever made a deal with something worldly, giving up part of your spiritual resolve to follow Jesus and weakening your faith? If you have, then you’re a sinful human as we all are. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Read more about us sinful humans:

“There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God. 
They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.” 
“Their throat is an open tomb;
With their tongues they have practiced deceit”;
“The poison of asps is under their lips”; 
“Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood; 
Destruction and misery are in their ways; 
And the way of peace they have not known.” 
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”  Romans 3:10-18 (NKJV)

Wow....seems harsh, but at times we’ve all turned away from God. Compromising our relationship with Him or failing to put Him first allows other loves to invade our hearts. Other loves begin to jeopardize our love for God and our spiritual lives are damaged. When our spiritual lives are damaged, we lose godly fear of our Creator and Savior. Once we lose respect and awe for God, we open ourselves up to things that run contrary to God. We then undermine our relationship with Him and bring dishonor to His name. Our hearts become divided, and divided hearts cannot worship our Lord and Savior in spirit and in truth.

Focus on the last sentence in the passage from Romans 3—“There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Do we fear God? Do we stand in awe of Him? Do we revere and respect who He is? If we continually give reverence to our Heavenly Father, then we never compromise our relationship with Him! YET....if we happen to slip up and bring shame to the relationship, He is merciful and faithful to forgive us if we return and repent of our wrongdoing (1 John 1:9). 

Read Psalm 86 below with your heart and mind centered on God. Repent of anything that distracts your total devotion to Him. Offer Him a contrite heart and worship Him with your cries of repentence. Know that with Him there is forgiveness and lovingkindness.

Bow down Your ear, O Lord, hear me;
For I am poor and needy.
Preserve my life, for I am holy;
You are my God;
Save Your servant who trusts in You!
Be merciful to me, O Lord,
For I cry to You all day long.
Rejoice the soul of Your servant,
For to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive,
And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.

Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
And attend to the voice of my supplications.
In the day of my trouble I will call upon You,
For You will answer me.

Among the gods there is none like You, O Lord;
Nor are there any works like Your works.
All nations whom You have made
Shall come and worship before You, O Lord,
And shall glorify Your name. 
For You are great, and do wondrous things;
You alone are God.

Teach me Your way, O Lord;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name.
I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And I will glorify Your name forevermore.
For great is Your mercy toward me,
And You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol. 

O God, the proud have risen against me,
And a mob of violent men have sought my life,
And have not set You before them.
But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious,
Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.

Oh, turn to me, and have mercy on me!
Give Your strength to Your servant,
And save the son of Your maidservant.
Show me a sign for good,
That those who hate me may see it and be ashamed,
Because You, Lord, have helped me and comforted me. 
Psalm 86 (NKJV)

When it comes to our relationship with God, we can’t compromise. We need undivided hearts as only God can give. We need His strength, His resources, and His work within us to unite our hearts for His purposes. We need to put things in the proper prospective, fearing the Lord our God and offering Him our undivided hearts. Then our relationship with Him will grow and we will worship our Heavenly Father in spirit and in truth. 

Teach me your way, O Lord,
    and I will walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart,
    that I may fear your name. 
Psalm 86:11 (NIV)    AMEN!

The Lord favors those who fear Him, Those who wait for His lovingkindness.  Psalm 147:11 (NASB)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Soldiers of the Cross

The design and message for this blog is God-inspired. His words from Ephesians 6 prompted the picture. On the design underneath the pink bar called Pages is a section About Us; it gives a brief description of the MP history. Below is a detailed account about a brief period in my life and the beginnings of this blog.

In the darkened pre-dawn hour, while lifting weights to strengthen my spine and arms, I encountered a scriptural “light bulb” moment. “He trains my hands to make war.” Psalm 18:34 (NKJV). The literal image of training for battle convinced me of my calling as I found myself in God’s gym. “Without a doubt, God, you’re preparing me for a fight,” I shouted.

Lifting weights became a necessary chore after experiencing back problems, so I added it to my morning routine before work: coffee, prayer, devotions, and exercise. Following that enlightened time with God, determination flooded my soul as I stood resolute about my purpose in life. I must become a spiritual trainer so that God’s earthly army will be equipped to fight the good fight of faith.

God’s call is now clear when reflecting on my life, yet it took my dad’s death for me to recognize it. Numbly gazing at the church’s picture window during the funeral, I felt God speaking to my tearful soul while the congregation sang one of my dad’s favorite hymns “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” The words from the song filled my mind with a compelling message—God fights by our side with spiritual weapons if Satan takes everything away from us. “Is that what’s happening to me, God?” I asked. “First I lose my relationship with my daughter to a controlling boyfriend and now I lose my dad to death. How much do You think I can take?” Tears fell. “Help me, God,” my soul cried.

The summer of 2005 felt like hell on earth. My dad, pastor of a Lutheran church and loving patriarch of our family, was gone––dead. Our daughter nearly vanished as she allowed a boyfriend to control her life. Anguish triggered exhaustion, paralyzing me.

Aware of my despair, my friends and spiritual sisters began praying me through this wilderness season. At work when they saw my pain, they pulled me into a room and prayed. They spoke God’s words of healing and promise, enabling me to stand in the stormy circumstances. They stood by my side as I waited for God’s answers.

Through daily devotions my faithful God met me with the comforting love of a perfect Father. Unexpectedly one morning in February 2006, He gave me direction and purpose. Speaking to my heart, He said, “Deborah, you’re going to fight for my church.”  In an instant I visualized the letters MP on my sleeve. “MP—what’s that?” I asked. I immediately thought military police, then I concluded with mothers and prodigals. “Oh my, what is this all about?” I asked. Only later would I realize God enlisted me into military training that very day.

Allowing God’s call to infuse my mind startled me. Fight, I thought. I don’t even like confrontation, yet I clearly needed to help gain my daughter’s freedom. The notion gave me hope. “How do I enter this battle?” I asked. He answered me with Ephesians 6:11-13 (NIV). “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”

All of a sudden it became clear to me that Satan desires to destroy lives. His best attack on families is through children. With this realization, God began showing me mothers whose hearts were breaking over childrens’ damaging choices. I understood their pain. A wrestling spirit rose up within me and I yearned for a fight. Now aware of the battle happening in the heavenlies, the armor of God in Ephesians 6 became essential. I enlisted an army of mothers to suit up in prayer as I shared God’s teachings from Ephesians. Weekly we met before work ready for battle. The power of God galvanized a fighting spirit within our group.

God’s battle plan stood before me. “Stand firm” became my mantra. My memory released a hymn from my teenager years that became my motto, “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus.” As a “soldier of the cross” God called me to “lift high His royal banner” and fight “till every foe is vanquished” and live it, not just sing it. He summoned me as His standard-bearer to set the course, wave the banner, and give the rallying cry—STAND FIRM.

His plan for my life advanced. Returning to visit my mom, I stumbled upon some of my dad’s religious resources and discovered a book entitled All the Women of the Bible by Edith Deen. My dad’s handwriting filled several margins of a section entitled “Deborah.” As I studied the Deborah of the Bible, I discovered her to be a warrior and a mother of Israel because she counseled people, judged disputes, and delivered Israel in time of war. Relying on God, she inspired many to trust Him. Gaining knowledge about the Deborah of the Bible confirmed my own purpose. My heart desired to console and empower others with the healing and strength I received from God through friends. 

God directed my path as I implemented His plan. Accumulating email addresses of friends and hurting mothers, I sent out prayer lists and uplifting devotions. My aim was to shower them with God’s promises while encouraging them to fight. We became mothers for prodigals or MPs, praying for lost children while watching over God’s Word to declare His promises for the next generation. As we regularly met, studied God’s Word, and prayed, our group increased and we recognized divine connections among ourselves. Changes began happening within our spirits and blessings occurred as we discerned new attitudes within our children.

Envisioning myself as a standard-bearer, I rallied side by side in prayer with these persevering MPs. Eventually as the email list grew, it became difficult to get messages out to the entire group. Someone suggested a blog. HA, funny God, you really do have a sense of humor. “I’m not even computer-savvy,” I said aloud. But God was directing this thing and He said BLOG. He even supplied a talented son of one of my new MP friends to create and design it. His mother understood our commission and relayed to him the meaning behind it all. Banner time!

The vision of a royal banner came to life on the blog—a purple standard with a sword and shield, defensive and offensive weapons declaring God’s promises over our children.  It is the banner that we raise as we pray together for our children. We fight with God’s Word and watch over it, contending with Him to remember His promises. Weekly I raise the standard with a posted message inspired by God, praying it gives hope to waiting mothers. 

Raising a standard and leading with the rally cry of stand firm is an awesome assignment from God, filled with encouragement and discouragement. At times I feel as though I’m serving alongside an army of women. Other times it seems I’m all alone. “Am I following Your plan, Lord?” I ask. He continually answers, “Look to me and no one else.” I know in my heart He is able to handle all situations, but my eyes search for visual signs. 

One day as I rummaged through a devotional book, a bookmark fell out. Bookmarks are a dime a dozen, but this one declared a confirmation. Colorfully pictured underneath the word CONFIRMATION lay a helmet, sword, and shield with a descending white dove. Beneath the picture were the quoted words from Ephesians 6:16-17. I suddenly realized that God’s been calling me a long time. Finally I’m listening! I remember receiving the bookmark 40 years ago on the day of my confirmation at church. God is so gracious to affirm for me a call that He sent out years ago. “Thank you, Lord, for Your persistence. May I serve You well!” I said.

Mulling over God’s plans, I stand amazed that He trains and uses me as His standard-bearer for a group of His hurting people. He carried me through my own painful experiences and called me to fortify wounded families. Confirming my mission, God faithfully strengthens me to lead mothers in fighting the good fight of faith as together we humbly go before the throne of God with prayers for our children.