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Posts Tagged ‘prodigal’

sighThis is another in a series of letters to the members of the Prayer for Prodigals community, with reality for all of us.

Dear Lover of Prodigals,

“Sigh.”

How many times have I said, “Sigh”?!  With a deep sigh.

When my prodigal does the same thing again!

When an anticipated good outcome becomes not good at all.

When bad choices require hard choices of me.

When my prayers don’t seem to accomplish anything.

A sigh is a lament.  It expresses sorrow, yearning, weariness, resignation.

And when our journey is ongoing, and our prodigal keeps making the same poor choices, and the pain is weariness, we are deeply sad.  We do sigh in resignation, despair, even hopelessness.

We make a lament.

Which is very biblical.

A lament is an elegy or a dirge.  It is verbalizing our mourning.

And many times we are in mourning, lamenting the loss of peace and hope and dreams.

Scripture has an entire book of laments:  Lamentations.

God is not offended by our tears, our laments, our sighs.  He understands.  He receives and treasures them.  He reaches out to comfort and encourage. He invites us to rest in Him.  To hope in Him.

sigh linusIt is then that a wonderful thing happens.  My sigh changes.  Instead of sorrow and resignation, it becomes my response to His invitations:  A sigh of being understood and accepted, of leaning on Him, of snuggling into His arms, of resting in peace and even contentment.

I have sighed often in the past six months.  And just when I thought the sighing was done, it is back.

So I am giving my lament to God, and asking him to transform my sighing from despair to trust.

May He do the same for you.

Love and grace for your new year.

Judy

What about you?  What causes you to “sigh”?

c2013 Judy Douglass

If you love a prodigal and would like to join this loving, praying community, write to PrayerforProdigalsatgmaildotcom and request an invitation.

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Today I’m sharing My Hazardous Faith Story as part of a synchroblog connected with the release of Ed Cyzewski and Derek Cooper’s new book Hazardous: Committing to the Cost of Following Jesus. See how you can participate below.

by Judy Douglass

I’m a giver.

I love to give—encouraging words, desirable gifts, needed money.  And life challenges.

I always want my gifts to please, lift, help, awaken…

God is also a giver.

He assures us that He gives good gifts.

My experience, however, has been that His gifts often have deeper purposes.

Sometimes they are truly hazardous.

The most hazardous gift God has given me is our son.

Twenty years ago God sent a nine-year-old boy from a very difficult situation to our family.  From the beginning, he provided significant challenges for us. He came with the results of his birth mother’s neglect, alcohol and drug abuse:  learning disabilities, ADD, attachment issues, no ability to reason cause and effect, incredible need for center of attention. That was just the beginning.

By his late teens, we were fully into the world of rebellion, poor choices and their consequences.

Our son took us into places we knew nothing about. Calls from the school principal were not to tell of his latest accomplishment, but about his latest escapade and the possibility of expulsion.  We became familiar with the juvenile justice system and traffic court.  Would the late-night calls be from the jail or the hospital—we got both.  He and his friends lied to, stole from, took advantage of and abused us and our home.   Drugs, alcohol, sex, accidents…

The way was deep and dark.

This was a gift?

Oh yes.  Hazardous for sure, but surely a gift.

Amazingly, this boy had a positive impact on our ministry. Because we did not hide our struggle, but lived out the journey in appropriate ways before our staff, we found new doors of ministry opened.

The greatest impact was on my relationship with God. We were helpless and therefore driven into His arms. My honesty with, trust in and hope in God all grew in amazing ways.

A wonderful online prayer community—PrayerforProdigals.com—and a June 2 Worldwide Prodigal Prayer Day blesses thousands around the globe.  It is truly my son’s ministry.  And he still gets prayed for.

God gave many other specific gifts through this one hazardous gift:

I know I am totally dependent on God—I have never been able to make his life work the way I wish it would.

I learned to pray—really.

I know for sure that God will never give up on me—and He enabled me to not give up on that boy.

I have a better understanding of unconditional love—and that it doesn’t require love in return.

I am able to attest to God’s unfathomable love and grace.  I am so grateful for that love and grace.

I am able to share hope and courage with others.  And more.

So this is where I tell you all is well, right?  We’ve weathered the storm and survived this hazardous gift.

Well, mostly.  He has become a responsible, hard-working man.  He desires to make right choices. He brings joy to me.  But he finds it hard to entirely escape the darkness. Things from his past still come back to bite.  We’re in a little bit of a hard place right now.

I wouldn’t, however, trade this gift for anything.  Sure, life would have been easier, safer without him.   But the gifts produced by struggle and pain make him a valuable gift, a priceless treasure. Plus I really love him. Thank You, Lord, for such an incredible gift!

What about you?  Has God given you a hazardous gift?

C2012 Judy Douglass

Click over to the Synchroblog.

How to Join the HAZARDOUS Synchroblog

The synchroblog starts Monday, August 27th and runs all week until Saturday.

Write a blog post sharing a personal story about a challenge you faced as a follower of Jesus. (You could also add: “I’m sharing My Hazardous Faith Story as part of a synchroblog connected with the release of Ed Cyzewski and Derek Cooper’s new book Hazardous: Committing to the Cost of Following Jesus.”).

At the bottom of your post, link to the synchroblog landing page: http://wp.me/PewoB-SN so that others can share their own Hazardous Faith Stories (Hey, you can just copy and paste these bullet points!)

Add your post to the link up section at the bottom of the My Hazardous Faith Story landing page on Monday-Saturday. Don’t forget to read and comment on at least one other post!

Tweet your post with the #HazardousFaith tag.

Include this image with your post: 400 pixels or 250 pixels width.

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The past few weeks have brought story after story of heartbreak and pain for many of my friends and family. Brokenness, loss,  relapse, destructive choices have caused heavy hearts, fear, even despair.

In my years of walking the heights and depths of prodigal wilderness, God’s Word has been a refuge, a haven, a place of courage and hope.  These are some the passages that have infused my heart and mind with peace and gratitude in even the darkest days.  May they do the same for you.

Jeremiah 24:6,7:  My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land.  I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them.  I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord.  They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.

Jeremiah 31:16,17:  This is what the Lord says:  Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded.  They will return from the land of the enemy.  So there is hope for your descendants.  Your children will return to their own land.

Isaiah 54:13:  All your children will be taught by the lord, and great will be their peace.

Isaiah 59:21:  As for me, this is my covenant with them.  My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of descendants from this time on and forever, says the Lord.

Job 42:12:  The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.

Philippians 1:6:  Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Romans 2:4:  Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance.

A blessing for you from Psalm 20:  May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.  May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.  May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.  May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God.  May the Lord grant all your requests.

Psalm 21:6:  Surely you have granted him unending blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence.

Deuteronomy 31:8:   The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you.  He will not fail you or forsake you.  Do not fear or be dismayed.

Colossians 3:12-13:  So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.

James 1:5:  But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God,  who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

Hebrews 4:16:  Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

I Thessalonians 5:18:  In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 34:5-7:  For 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.

Psalm 34:18-19:  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.

Isaiah 60:22:  I am the Lord; in its time I will do this swiftly.

What about you?  How has God encouraged you in a wilderness journey?

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This is the fifth in a weekly series of mini-devotionals on GRACE, which is the theme of the 2012 June 2 Worldwide Day of Prayer for Prodigals.

“That’s disgraceful!”

“You are so ungrateful.”

“That behavior makes you persona non grata here.”

All of these phrases have a root of grace—or lack of it.  They mean without grace.  And they are words that any of us might have said to our prodigals, because they are true.

Yet God tells us just the opposite should be true of the words we speak.  They should be full of grace:

“…your lips have been anointed with grace, since God has blessed you forever.” (Psalm 45:2)

“One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king for a friend.” (Proverbs 22:11)

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:6)

“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)

I am convinced that one of the most important ways we extend grace to our prodigals is through our words.

Words are powerful.  They have the potential to inflame discord and to inflict great emotional harm, or the capacity to encourage repentance and restoration, to offer healing and reconciliation.

Certainly, we must speak truth, and our prodigals often need to hear some hard truths.  But God’s Word reminds us how we deliver those words:

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”  ( Ephesians 4:15)

Easy?  No.  Our frustration prompts negative words.  Their disrespect elicits a raised voice.  Anger arouses emotions.  Conflict escalates.

How?  How do we speak truth in love.  How do we make sure our words are seasoned with grace?

Some practical thoughts:

Count to 10 before you speak.

Speak slowly, calmly, gently and firmly.

Think:  Will these words throw oil or water on the fire?

Consider:  Would you like someone to speak such words, in that tone of voice, to you?

Recognize:  The words you speak today can be part of your relationship with your prodigal for all the years to come.

Realize:  Your tone of voice can turn neutral words into destructive words.

Remember:  You love this person.

And most of all, stop to pray before you speak.  Make sure you are filled with the Spirit.  Ask Him to govern your tongue, to release His love into your heart.  Choose to be an instrument of God’s grace.

Gracious words may or may not lessen the carnage in the immediate “conversation,” though they should help.  But over time words filled with grace will eliminate the fuel that feeds what often becomes an inferno.  Return, reconciliation, restoration will occur more easily when the words we have spoken have not done irreparable harm, when grace has prevailed.

Love speaks grace.   So should we.

What about you?  Do you need to add more grace seasoning to your words?

c2012 Judy Douglass

If you would like more information, to request prayer for a prodigal, or to join our full-of-grace community, please write to prayerforprodigalsatgmaildotcom with your questions or names, or for an invitation.

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I have the privilege of being in a prayer community of people who love prodigals.  They have or have had loved ones who wandered far from God–and them, usually–and they pray for each other.  Periodically I get to write a letter to encourage all of us.  Perhaps you or someone you know needs such encouragement.  So here is last year’s Christmas Letter to Lovers of Prodigals.


Dear Lover of Prodigals,

All I want for Christmas…

…is the return of my prodigal.

Lord, please, for Christmas could my child come home.  Would you set him free from his addictions.  Cause her to choose not to live with her boyfriend.  May they see the emptiness and destructiveness of their choices.  And, Lord, may we have peace in our family for Christmas.

I have asked for just such gifts—for many Chritmases.  Probably you have as well.

A couple of helpful thoughts:

1.     God knows the yearnings of your heart.  He knows exactly what you want for Christmas.  And He is so willing for you to ask, to be honest, to cry out.  So don’t be afraid to tell Him how your heart aches, about your fears for your loved ones, about your concerns for your other children, about how overwhelmed you feel at this time meant for celebration.

2.    At the same time, remember that His answers almost always look so different, and have such later timing, than our requests.  We can’t understand what He is doing—He tells us His ways are above ours.  Yet Scripture tells us repeatedly that He knows and understands and is filled with compassion for our pain.
He has given us many wonderful promises that enable us to express our love for and trust in Him—and see His faithful responses.  Just read and meditate on these words from God:

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.“ (Matt. 6:33)

“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.” (Phil 4:6-7)

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will gi ve him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt 11:28-29)

So for this Christmas, I join you in asking God for miracles in the lives of our prodigals.  But I also ask that He will help you to seek Him first and enable you to experience His peace and freedom from fear and deep rest in Him.

May His blessings overflow you this Christmas season.

Judy

c 2011 Judy Douglass

c 2010 Judy Douglass

If you would like to be part of such a prayer community, write me at prayerforprodigals@gmail.com and I will invite you to join us.

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4 Word…Women who work…love…pray:  Diane Paddison’s new web community for young professional women, and her book, Work Pray Love, provide community, encouragement, support and connection for working women who want to walk with God through all aspects of their lives.

I have the privilege of being interviewed on the 4Word Women blog today, talking about parenting and living, loving and learning through a prodigal child.

So click on over to 4Word Women to read my interview.  I would love your response:  How have your children stretched you spiritually?  Comment on post there, or come here to comment.

From the interview:

4word: Would you say that parenting stretches and grows your faith?

Judy: Parenting is probably the greatest faith stretcher there is. It reveals what’s inside us: our strengths and weaknesses.   We feel unbelievably responsible and totally inadequate…

continue reading

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My son, the big, strong, tough guy.  Fisherman.  Landscaper.  Survivor.

The prodigal who broke my heart so many times, leading me to the feet of Jesus.

My teacher—unknowingly—for learning the reality of

…unconditional love,

…God’s fondness for waiting,

…the life breath that is prayer,

…the necessity of persevering,

…believing in a better future.

Delivering hope and joy in the twisting journey,

…slowly moving upward and homeward.

I’m smiling at today’s mileposts.

This morning he posted on Facebook:

I hate the fact that I lost my job, but I Love the fact i just got to test my little girl on her social studies and then took her to school 🙂

Tonight he called to confirm the directions for the cupcakes he and Madison were making.  Then he called again:  Is it okay if I let her lick the bowl?

Funny boy—how many times did he lick the bowl?

The cupcakes turned out perfect, though the icing is a little sloppy.

Aren’t we all–a little sloppy?!

 

 

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