Mothers for Prodigals

Sunday, January 26, 2014

From Trial to Triumph

Life can be extremely challenging. Whether we experience financial troubles, hunger, death, disease, bad relationships, or simply the upkeep of owning material goods, the frustration of dealing with unfavorable issues weakens us. Agitation and distress undermine the positives in life, draining our strength. Our outlook on life is dismal at best, and then it seems everything continues to go wrong. All the while, behind these horrible scenes prowls the enemy of God, waiting to steal our joy and create chaos. What do we do?

As believers in Christ, we pick up our sword, the Word of God which is Jesus, and we fight the good fight of faith (Ephesians 6:17, John 1:1-5, 2 Timothy 4:7). But what if we don’t have the strength to fight? What if we don’t feel like reading Scripture? What then? Simply speak the name of Jesus, sing a song of praise, pray a short prayer, or talk with a trusted friend—there’s power in those actions. 

Scripture warns us about our adversary, the devil. Scripture instructs us not to be anxious about anything, but to thankfully pray to our God who cares for us. Scripture guides us in living a godly life. Scripture strengthens and heals. 

If you are suffering from heartache and hurt right now, God’s Words are posted below to help you heal. But if you don’t have the energy to read them, then gaze at the pictures of the heavens and know that the Creator loves you. If music soothes your soul, then click on the links below and let the gift of song restore you. Simply be still and know that He is God.

Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:7-8 (NASB)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6 (NIV) 
For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20 (NIV)
“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name...
Matthew 6:9 (NIV)
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.
Psalm 121 (NIV)

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
    God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
    the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Psalm 46 (NIV)

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:6-11(NASB)

“Sweet Jesus” by Selah and Jill Phillips -------

“The Prayer” with lyrics sung by Celine Dion and Josh Groban  ----

We give thanks to You, Lord God, for who you are. We love you, Jesus Christ, for giving your life for us. Holy Spirit, guide us daily and lead us to life everlasting. AMEN. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Behind the Smiles

Pictures are wordless stories, and so are photographs. But what about those arranged photos of family and friends? What stories exist behind the smiles? How many people come together in a moment of time and simply strike a pose? Who is really happy? 

I documented memories this past Christmas with a camera. Our extended family only gathers together several times a year and pictures help me remember good times. As I reflected on the memories from the photos, I began to study all the smiles. Were those happy faces just for the moment or were they for real? Which smiles were covering suffering and distress? 

Out of the thoughts and questions I had about the smiling faces in my photographs came the poem “Behind the Smiles.” I hope it generates your compassion for those who hide behind smiles.

Behind the Smiles

Life stills for a brief moment,
A memory in the making.
Family and friends strike a pose
How many expressions are faking?

The scenery in the snapshot
Depicts a single note of time.
Everyone’s posed for a keepsake,
A token of existence sublime.

Pondering the motionless happy scene,
Are situations full of laughs?
What lies behind the grinning faces
Of people in photographs?

We want the world to know
That nothing with us is wrong.
We put on an expression of warmth,
Our souls appear full of song.

But deep inside some wounded hearts
Resides misery, anguish, and woe.
Daily the depth of sufferings increase.
Lord, to whom shall we go?

Jesus gives us the words of life.
When believed they dispel the dark.
Scripture’s many encouraging words
Overflow from a trusting heart.

Many a photo may contain
Fake grins from ear to ear.
Knowing happy faces emit the truth
Tells the onlooker God is near.

Debbie Crawford 1/15/14

Stepping out of the pictures and looking at the people around us, do we know if the smiles on their faces are real? Do their happy faces conceal worry and anxiety? How can we know? Can we offer help?

Do you hide hurts with a smile? Do you know other people whose grins mask problems? Where can you go to find real joy? How can you offer joy to others? The answer is the word of God. His Word is the salve that soothes pains. His Word is the ointment of true joy. His Word produces true smiles!

Read His comforting words below and let them fill your soul. Put on a smile of joy and share your happiness with others.

Listen to my words, Lord,
    consider my lament.
 Hear my cry for help,
    my King and my God,
    for to you I pray.

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
    in the morning I lay my requests before you
    and wait expectantly.
For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness;
    with you, evil people are not welcome.
 The arrogant cannot stand
    in your presence.
You hate all who do wrong;
     you destroy those who tell lies.
The bloodthirsty and deceitful
    you, Lord, detest.
But I, by your great love,
    can come into your house;
in reverence I bow down
    toward your holy temple.

Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness
    because of my enemies—
    make your way straight before me.
Not a word from their mouth can be trusted;
    their heart is filled with malice.
Their throat is an open grave;
    with their tongues they tell lies.
Declare them guilty, O God!
    Let their intrigues be their downfall.
Banish them for their many sins,
    for they have rebelled against you.
But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
    let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
    that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous;
    you surround them with your favor as with a shield.
Psalm 5 (NIV)

Protect me, God, for the only safety I know is found in the moments I seek You.
I told You, Eternal One, “You are my Lord,
    for the only good I know in this world is found in You alone.”

The beauty of faith-filled people encompasses me.
    They are true, and my heart is thrilled beyond measure.
All the while the despair of many,
    who abandoned Your goodness for the empty promises of false gods, increases day by day.
I refuse to pour out blood offerings,
    to utter their names from my lips.

You, Eternal One, are my sustenance and my life-giving cup.
    In that cup, You hold my future and my eternal riches.
My home is surrounded in beauty;
    You have gifted me with abundance and a rich legacy.

I will bless the Eternal, whose wise teaching orchestrates my days
    and centers my mind at night.
He is ever present with me;
    at all times He goes before me.
I will not live in fear or abandon my calling
    because He stands at my right hand.

This is a good life—my heart is glad, my soul is full of joy,
    and my body is at rest.
    Who could want for more?
You will not abandon me to experience death and the grave
    or leave me to rot alone.

Instead, You direct me on the path that leads to a beautiful life.
    As I walk with You, the pleasures are never-ending,
    and I know true joy and contentment.
Psalm 16 (The Voice)

The Lord sustains all who fall
And raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to You,
And You give them their food in due time.
You open Your hand
And satisfy the desire of every living thing.
Psalm 145:14-16 (NASB)


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Receive PEACE

Have you ever received a gift? Have you known someone who died and bequeathed you with money, property, or anything else? A last will and testament might begin with the words.....I leave my silver and china to my daughter Emma. Hopefully the person receiving the bestowal would gladly receive it with wonderful remembrances of the giver. 

This Christmas, instead of waiting until death (and I pray she lives a long time), my mother-in-law gifted the women in her life with treasures from her past. She gave some of her jewelry to her granddaughters and granddaughter-in-law. She blessed me with a pitcher, a platter, and six glasses made from depression glass (glass made during the Depression Era); it had belonged to her mother. She desired to leave us with her valuables before she passed. 

Jesus did the same with His disciples at the Last Supper or Feast of the Passover when He knew He would die (John 13-14). He began by washing their feet and setting the example of servanthood. Then He shared with them why He came to earth and what He wanted to leave them with when He left. He wanted to leave them with peace, His peace that passes all understanding. He knew they would face many challenges and become fearful. He knew they would need the kind of peace that only He can give. So He promised to give them His Holy Spirit and, in turn, His Holy Spirit would comfort them and bless them with peace. This is want He said to them:

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled; nor let it be fearful.” John 14:26-27 (NASB)

Jesus gives that same peace to His modern day disciples as well. It’s written in the Bible which is His Word for all His people. It has stood the test of time and it is truth. The Old Testament prophesied of a child that would be born, and His many names would include Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Later His birth was confirmed in the New Testament and the angels then sang of the peace that had come to earth (Luke 2:9-14). Jesus lived a life of peace among chaos and He then offered that same peace to His disciples at His last supper (John 14). 

My hope is that you’ve received and experienced His peace, at least once in your lifetime, so that you know it is real and available at any time. Life may not always be peaceful, but we can stand firm among our chaos, wearing the shoes of peace that Jesus wore. Remember He passed on His peace to all who would believe on His name and receive in His name. 

Below is a story of how He offered me peace when anxiety overwhelmed me after encountering difficulty. I hope you can relate with your own experiences and allow Him to turn your distresses into peaceful moments. 

Several nights ago as I lay in bed distressed over my situation, God breathed His peace into my awful situation and immediately my panic disappeared. Just as quickly as my computer files (everything from class notes to original writings) had disappeared, so did my panic. 

You see, earlier that night, I experienced trouble with the internet while on my computer. After talking through various trouble-shooting options with a tech on the phone, I discovered that my trouble only intensified. When I opened several documents, I saw blank pages. I continued to open other writings in my folders and everything was blank. Suddenly I remembered that I didn’t have all my files backed up and my stomach churned. Could everything that I worked on and saved for three years be gone? This was my worst nightmare as a writer. How would I recapture all those words I had previously penned?

As I sat up in bed almost hyperventilating, wanting to scream and throw up at the same time, God quickly reminded me who He was and is and always will be—God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the Prince of Peace. I lifted up my mantra of praise saying, “My God is bigger than all my problems, my God is bigger than all my troubles, and He cares for me.” A peace slowly infiltrated my lungs and as I breathed Him in, my heart stopped its racing and my palms quit sweating. Somehow I believed my God could revive my writings. But then I said to myself, “What if they can’t be retrieved? What then?” Immediately I remembered the words spoken by Simon Peter to Jesus, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

The situation from which Peter spoke was a tough one. Jesus had been speaking to a crowd of Jews and He ruffled some feathers. He called Himself the bread of life and said that whoever ate of this bread would have eternal life. Some heard heavenly words, but others heard blasphemy. Because of His hard teaching that day, many withdrew from Him. They simply gave up! That’s what I felt like doing that night—giving up—until I repeated the words of Peter saying, “You have the words of eternal life.” Peace rained down from heaven and I ate of the bread of life. I began to believe that no matter what happened, God would supply me with His words again. 

Now don’t get me wrong—it wasn’t as easy as it seems. I fought a battle. I vacillated from panic to praise to peace and back to panic. But I chose to believe my Savior and stand on His promising words of life. My peace maker rescued me. My Prince of Peace delivered me from the anxiety that raged within me, and eventually He rescued all the words on my computer that He has given me over the years. 

Do you struggle with stress and trouble? Does fear and anxiety come at you like a flood? We have a Savior who bequeaths us with a gift—the gift of peace. Allow the peaceful words of the Savior Jesus Christ to fill you with a peace that passes all understanding. Then stand in that peace believing the words of the Prince of Peace. His words are below. As you read them, hear with your heart what the Lord desires to give you. Receive the peace of the Lord.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5 (NIV)  

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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 4:4-7 (NIV)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)

You will keep in perfect peace
    those whose minds are steadfast,
    because they trust in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
    for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.
Isaiah 26:3-4 (NIV)

Lord God, my Heavenly Father, my Savior Jesus Christ, bless right now the person reading this post with your peace that passes all understanding. May she/he come to know that your peace is available at all times of the day and night. It is the inheritance of a child of God, a believer in Christ Jesus. For it is in Your precious and holy name that I pray, AMEN!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Year of the Purple Scarf

This year the primary color,
Among our Christmas gifts,
Was a hue that can denote
Royalty or rifts.

Scarves seemed to be the predominant gift exchanged among our family this Christmas season and purple radiated as the primary color. Seeing purple reminded me of royalty as well as rifts or wounds. While considering how we wear scarves wrapped around our necks, I visualized the loving arms of Jesus wrapped around my neck and shoulders. Then I heard Him whisper in my ear, “You are my child and I love you. I can heal whatever hurts you.” 

God loved us so much that He sent His Son Jesus to be born into the world, to live as a humble servant, and to sacrifice His life for His creation, providing a way to redemption and eternal life for believers in the name of Christ Jesus (John 3:16, John 13:12-17, Romans 3:23-25). When we receive Him and believe on His Name, He gives us the right to become His children (John 1:12). Then we become part of God’s royal family as Peter declares in 1 Peter 2:9:

You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (NIV)

When we adopt the ways of the world instead of living as God’s royal children, we become battered and bruised. We focus on our circumstances and forget about His mercy. God repeatedly reminded the Israelites about His love and grace while they repeatedly turned away from Him to sin. This human cycle of sin can only be transformed by a Savior. That’s why God sent His Son Jesus into the world. That’s why we celebrate His birth at Christmas. That’s why love seems to warm our hearts during this season.  When we allow Him into our lives, He will wrap us up in His love. As scripture says in Song of Songs 2:4:

Let him lead me to the banquet hall,
    and let his banner over me be love.

Below is a poem that flowed from my heart as I considered our gifts of scarfs, the season of Christmas, the color purple, and the warm wrapping of God’s love. 

The Year of the Purple Scarf

 Battered and bruised by discouraging words, 
She returned to her family broken.
With cheeks purpled by humiliation
Very few words were spoken.

Arms wrapped around her shoulders,
Replicating the God from above,
Expressing His warmth and sacrifice
Because His banner over us is love.

When swaddled in God’s family crest,
The cross of mercy and grace,
Purple wounds of suffering and shame
Are erased with His loving embrace.

Suddenly the soul of the disgraced
Is supplied with the strength of the Lord.
Joy overflows like the surge of a flood
As God’s Words are stored and poured.

The transformation from sinner to saint
Has dismantled Satan’s trap.
This child of God is promptly encased 
With a royal purple wrap.

Deborah Crawford - 1/2/14

Thank you, Lord God, for the love you gave us all at Christmas time. Your love wraps me up with warmth and security, making me a child of the King. I am grateful for Your grace. Thank you, Jesus. AMEN.