Treasure in a Clay Pot ~ Mark S. Mitchell

This is Chapter 8 ~ Treasure in a Clay Pot of a series called Portrait of Integrity by Mark S. Mitchell.  It is about Pastor Ray Stedman and his four daughters who all grew up in the turbulent times of the 60’s and 70’s, rebelling against their Christian roots in order to fit in with society. I think you will find this account encouraging, knowing once again you are not alone in this trial, but to see what the Lord accomplishes through the suffering of these parents of prodigals, and the faith and the joy of “the homecoming”.

Treasure in a Clay Pot by Mark S. Mitchell

Ray Stedman was not just a pastor; he was also a husband and a father. And during the sixties, the two-story Stedman home on Wellsbury Way in Palo Alto bustled with the busy lives of his four daughters: Sheila, born in 1948; Susan in 1950; Linda in 1954; and Laurie in 1962.

Because of his own experiences as a child–abandoned by his father, emotionally distanced from his troubled mother, and adopted by his loving aunt and uncle–Ray was devoted to his wife and daughters. Yet these childhood experiences and their resulting emotional effect on his life also ill-equipped him to deal with many of the demands of being a husband and father. Ray tended to be emotionally disconnected with the women in his home. Consequently, it was in the family arena, more than anywhere else, where Ray experienced the truth of the New Covenant–that God’s strength could be perfected only in his own weakness.

In many ways, the Stedmans were a typical suburban family of their day. They lived in a comfortable home, their daughters attended decent schools, they enjoyed family vacations, and they endured the normal squabbles associated with seven people and three generations living under the same roof (Elaine’s mother lived with them until her death in 1983.) But it was the underlying foundation of God’s love and truth that held the family together.

Good Times as a Family

RAY’S DAUGHTERS HAVE ESPECIALLY fond memories of camping trips with their father. Because of her weak back, Elaine usually did not participate in these adventures, and with good reason. It was never enough for Ray to simply find a convenient campsite with all the usual amenities. Instead, he drove a borrowed Jeep or Land Rover off-road to the highest lake or remotest river in the area. Ray loved to scare the girls by making his own roads up the side of a mountain or driving as close as possible to the edge of a cliff. During the night, as the girls snuggled in their sleeping bags, Ray would playfully scratch on the outside of the tent and growl like a bear. (Susan and Linda Stedman, interviews by author, July 14, 2001, Grants Pass, Ore., tape recording.)

Ray’s sense of humor took various forms. On one camping trip, he stood shaving with his electric razor plugged into a tree that looked as if it might have been struck by lightning. He convinced the girls that if they ever found a tree that had been hit by lightning, they could stick an electrical plug into it and get electricity. Ray collapsed with laughter when, on their next camping trip, Susan announced she was bringing her curling iron to plug into one of those trees! (Ibid.)

Ray’s love of adventure and risk was revealed clearly during these outings. His daughters remember him as fearless, possessing an unshakable faith that no matter how bad a situation became, everything would somehow work out. And Ray always seemed able to escape tough situations unscathed. On one occasion he took Elaine and Laurie out in a small boat on San Francisco Bay on a Sunday afternoon. In the middle of the bay, the motor hit bottom, severing the shear pin and leaving them powerless. The wind blew so hard that their small paddles proved useless. They wondered where they would end up, and if they would ever get back in time for the Sunday evening service. It was not uncommon for people adrift in the middle of the bay to spend the night on the mud flats! Finally, the direction of the wind changed and pushed them back close to the west shore, where Elaine’s brother picked them up in time to make it to church. To the girls, this was just another example that their father could escape any situation. (Laurie Stedman, interview by author, July 15, 2001, Grants Pass, Ore., tape recording.)

Ray’s daughters also remember their father’s love for music. Ray was not a musician, but he loved music and he taught his daughters to appreciate good music. Unfortunately, this did not keep Ray from singing Scottish songs and cowboy tunes in an off-key voice at the top of his lungs. Together the Stedman family sang everything from hymns to songs they learned on their favorite television program, Sing Along with Mitch. Ray’s love for music deeply influenced Susan, and she was accepted into the Wheaton Conservatory of Music after high school. (Susan, Linda, and Laurie Stedman, interviews by author.)

Ray’s unpredictable ways carried over into his spending habits. While Elaine was very frugal, Ray was an impulsive buyer. When he wanted something, he rarely shopped around or waited for a bargain, but would race to a store and buy it. Ray was also extremely generous and enjoyed purchasing impractical gifts for his family. Valentine’s Day was often an occasion for him to get red roses for Elaine and new dresses for the girls. Ray had exquisite taste, and they were never disappointed with the gifts he chose for them. (Ibid.)

Ray’s generosity also translated into hospitality. “We would always have a big meal after church,” remembers Laurie, “and my parents would always invite somebody home who looked like they didn’t have anyplace to go. Usually it was my dad who invited someone. If it was getting close to the time to leave the church, I would remind my dad to invite somebody. I loved having people over. I looked forward to that. We would also have people over on Sunday evenings after church.” (Laurie Stedman, interview.) As a result, a variety of characters came through their doors, and many stayed for more than a meal. When J. Vernon McGee preached at PBC, he stayed with the Stedmans, and the girls have never forgotten his bright colored pajamas. As mentioned earlier, Luis Palau stayed with the family for two months when he first came to the United States in 1960, and his Latin sense of humor brightened their home. When former Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver professed to becoming a Christian, Ray opened both his church and his home to him and his family, precipitating a media frenzy in the Stedman front yard. (Ibid.)

Ray and Elaine also created an atmosphere in which learning and thinking were highly valued. Ray prized reading so much that he paid his daughters to read books, including the Bible. When the girls were teenagers, he asked them to present him with a written outline of his sermon after they had listened to him preach. Although they resented it at the time, they say, it taught them to think logically–a skill they used in school and later in their careers. Ray also loved to play chess, and he rarely lost. When he was not beating a fellow staff member or the computer, he played with his daughters, often giving them a handicap so they had a chance to win. (Susan and Linda Stedman, interviews by author.)

But one of the greatest legacies Ray left his daughters was the model of a strong marriage that lasted forty-seven years. Though Ray and Elaine were reserved in their outward expressions of love for each other, their commitment to each other was unquestioned. Every morning when Ray was home, he and Elaine began their day together at the breakfast nook, reading from a devotional book and praying for the family. Ray and Elaine were partners in every sense, freeing each other for the work God had for each of them and thus allowing the Lord to use them in a deeper way.(Elaine Stedman, interview by author, July 15,2001, Grants Pass, Ore., tape recording.) Ray’s one-sided authoritarianism, which characterized their early years of marriage, eventually mellowed into servant leadership. As the years passed, their marriage became even more of a mutual partnership as Ray recognized Elaine’s tremendous gifts. This truly came to the fore in 1975 when Elaine distinguished herself as an author with her book, A Woman’s Worth. When Ray read the manuscript, he was stunned and delighted by Elaine’s insight and encouraged her to use the gifts God had given her in both speaking and writing.

The deep warmth and love between Ray and Elaine is reflected in many of Ray’s letters to her when he was away from home, speaking or teaching. In October 1968, he wrote to her from an airplane en route to Saigon: ”

All day my thoughts have been running back to twenty-three years ago in Honolulu. Sometimes it seems very close in time, and other times it seems worlds away. I’m grateful for this almost quarter-of-a-century the Lord has given us together, for our family and friends, and the ministry we have shared. By nature we both tend to be reticent about our feelings but I think it’s appropriate on this day to tell you I love you very much and feel the Lord has fulfilled all His promise of marital happiness which lay unfolded on that wedding day so long ago. You have done well as a wife and mother and now that we see our first-born about to leave the family nest for good it is good to realize that the years ahead will be different but not empty. (Ray Stedman, letter to Elaine Stedman, October 22,1968.)

Troubled Waters

DESPITE THE FOUNDATION OF love in the Stedman home, through the years the family experienced some great heartache. At different periods of time, each of Ray and Elaine’s daughters went through a significant season of rebellion; at times the relationship between Ray and his daughters was strained or even fractured. Because of Ray’s visibility, and his and Elaine’s deep mutual desire for their daughters to follow Christ, these periods of family discord caused them tremendous pain.

Several factors probably contributed to the difficulties in the Stedman home, and one major factor was Ray’s devotion to his ministry. Like most evangelical leaders of his generation, Ray traveled extensively, seldom counting the cost to his family. “Billy Graham said that if there was one thing he would have done differently, it would have been to spend more time with his family,” says Elaine, reflecting back to those times. “I think Ray really felt that way too. But that was the way that we were trained to think about ministry; that ministry was first and the family came in wherever they fit in. We both thought that way, so we did not object to it. It was tough though. The hardest things that happened with the girls happened when he was gone.” (Elaine Stedman, interview by Wade Whitcomb, November 17-18, 1994, Grants Pass, Ore., transcript.)

Another factor was the spirit of the time and place in which Ray and Elaine raised their daughters. During the sixties, traditional Christian morality was not only questioned but mocked, and nowhere was this more evident than at Cubberly High School in Palo Alto, which was known as the local center of the hippie movement with all the attendant activities: antiwar protests, drugs, and sexual experimentation. Ray’s three older daughters all attended Cubberly, and Linda remembers that the students basically took over the school. “During those days at Cubberly there were groups of people smoking pot in the parking lot with no intervention. Most teachers simply avoided the area. The bathrooms were filled with cigarette smoke during breaks. Many students had some sort of venereal disease. Students seemed to be protesting everything they could think of.” (Linda Stedman, interview.) Being Ray Stedman’s daughters, the girls felt pressure to conform to their parents’ standards and the church culture of which they were a part. At the same time, they desperately wanted to fit in and “be normal” in a school environment that could not have been more different from their home and church.

It is ironic that a church that became a haven for the Jesus People was the very place Ray’s daughters felt they could not be themselves and work through their struggles as normal teenagers. But in the sixties, the evangelical culture in general and PBC in particular were not always as accepting as they would later become in the Body Life services in the early seventies. Both PBC and Ray Stedman experienced a process of maturation in this regard. But for much of the sixties, PBC was a typical evangelical church and Ray was a strict pastor and father. “Dad would not allow me to date a non-Christian,” recalls Sheila, “and so I was limited to the guys at church, which didn’t appeal to me much. . . . I wasn’t allowed to go to school dances, or any movie not created by Disney, and of course never a secular party.” (Sheila Stedman, letter to author, August 26, 2002.)

And without doubt, people in the church expected more from them than from other young people. “They got some pretty hard knocks,” says Elaine. “Things that really derailed them. I don’t think Laurie [the youngest] did, because after Body Life, things changed so much at PBC. It was a different atmosphere and a different way of looking at things. But before that it was very traditional and more was expected of them. People would say things like, ‘How could you do that when you have such wonderful parents?’ But the girls knew their parents! They knew we were just people.” (Elaine Stedman, interview.)

Another factor was that although Ray was always affectionate with his girls, one of his weaknesses as a father was his inability to relate to them on an emotional level. Elaine believes this was a handicap inherited from his upbringing. “He loved his kids. But because they were girls, he felt awkward with them at times. He didn’t quite know how to handle their emotional outbursts. . . . He did not understand the female. He did not grow up with females. He had two brothers. He had two male cousins. He didn’t relate well to his mother at all. He didn’t have a close relationship with his aunt. . . . It was a good relationship, . . . But there was no closeness, no real intimate sharing. He never learned that kind of sharing and intimacy of communication.” (Ibid.)

Susan, Ray’s second daughter, agrees. “The one thing I felt was most lacking from my dad was an ability to relate to me emotionally. He was so mental, and so logical, that anything that operated on the emotional level would just throw him. He had a real hard time with that. . . . And I think part of that might have been from his childhood, and his mother being so overemotional.” (Susan Stedman, interview.)

Ray’s weakness in this area made it especially difficult for him to talk with his daughters about the temptations they were experiencing. Sheila remembers wanting to talk with her dad about her struggles, but feeling unable to do so. “I was always seeking approval from him, so I decided it wasn’t safe to tell him of my dilemma. I wanted badly to tell him, but the few times I tried he would tell me it was wrong to think that Ray and that it hurt him to hear such things. I think that was the biggest ‘wart’ with Dad back then because he unknowingly blocked me from sharing my pain and kept me from being honest with him.” (Sheila Stedman, letter.)

Linda recalls that her father himself often would react emotionally and resort to bribes. “He tried to send me off to L’Abri in Switzerland in order to bribe me not to get married.” (Linda Stedman, interview.) Ray once even threatened to leave the ministry. “Dad made the mistake of threatening to leave the ministry because of me,” recalls Sheila, “so the guilt was piled on and I felt I had to escape even more.” (Sheila Stedman, letter.)

What Ray’s daughters did not know was that the threat to leave the ministry was anything but a bluff More than once Ray doubted his own fitness for the ministry enough that he actually approached the PBC elders about resigning. He felt he was no longer qualified to serve if his children were out of control. But the elders convinced him that since the daughter in question was already out of the house, he should not take responsibility for her actions. In one particularly moving meeting, all the elders shared communion and prayed for Ray. This event, and particularly Ray’s transparency and integrity, left a deep impression on several of the elders.(Jim Heaton, interview by author, March 15, 2001, Gleneden Beach, Ore., tape recording.)

One can’t help but wonder about the role of the Christian’s adversary in all of this. Scripture says, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world-forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 NASB). Luis Palau believes that many of the difficulties in the Stedman home were the result of spiritual warfare.(Luis Palau, interview by author, September 9, 2002, by telephone, tape recording.) Although Ray never publicly spoke about his daughters’ experiences, his book Spiritual Warfare reflects many of the insights he must have first applied to his own battles.

Remember this–the aim, the goal of Satan in all this clever stratagem, by which he has kept the human race in bondage through these hundreds of centuries, is to destroy, to ruin, to make waste. That is his purpose toward you and me. A young man I know, who had been raised in church, though he is only twenty-one years old, has already become a mental and physical wreck. Why? Because he has turned aside from the truth and followed the philosophy of Satan. Satan is accomplishing his aim, destroying this life which God loves. That is what he is attempting to do with US. (See Ray’s message Spiritual Warfare), Chapter 3: “The Strategy of Satan.”)

But as with so many of Satan’s tactics, they backfired when it came to Ray. “I really believe that Satan’s favorite inroad to attacking Dad’s ministry was through his daughters,” says Linda. “However, I think our rebellion challenged and strengthened Dad’s faith more than any other events in his life. It brought him to his knees time after time.” (Linda Stedman, e-mail to author, September 1,2002.)

Internalizing the New Covenant

IT WAS ON HIS knees, because of his sense of inadequacy as a father, that what Ray called the New Covenant became more than just a doctrine to him. In 1975 he wrote Authentic Christianity as a clear explanation of that covenant, the essence of which is that Christians are vessels designed to contain the life of Jesus.

But the Christian is more than an empty vessel. He has something within or, more accurately, Someone within. We have a treasure in our clay pot! And more than a treasure–a transcendent power! That is humanity as God intended it to be. The clay pot is not much in itself, but it holds an inestimable treasure, beyond price, and a transcendent power, greater than any other power known to humanity. (See Ray’s book Authentic Christianity> [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Discovery House Publishers, 1996], 122.)

Ray had come to learn that the life of Jesus dwelling in the believer would not exempt him from experiencing hardship and heartache. Indeed, it was these experiences that allowed for the experience and demonstration of the life of Christ within:

Undoubtedly, one of the greatest misconceptions held by many is that being a Christian means that life should suddenly smooth out, mysterious bridges will appear over all chasms, the winds of fate will be tempered, and all difficulties will disappear. No, Christianity is not membership in some red-carpet club. All the problems and pressures of life remain, or are even intensified. Christians must face life in the raw, just as any pagan will. The purpose of the Christian life is not to escape dangers and difficulties but to demonstrate a different way of handling them. There must be trouble, or there can be no demonstration. (Ibid., 125.)

When Ray wrote, “There must be trouble, or there can be no demonstration,” he wrote out of his own life experience. Out of his personal sense of inadequacy and failure as a father Ray learned that “the surpassing greatness of the power” was indeed from God and not from himself Out of his own trouble at home came a demonstration of the life of Christ within.

Because of his suffering, Ray became a softer and more empathetic and “human” pastor and father. When he spoke of believers simply being “cracked pots” who held a treasure inside, people knew that he spoke out of his own brokenness. He became more compassionate, tender, and patient with those who strayed. People on his staff and in his church saw the change, as did his family.

Susan views her own rebellious years as a way of knocking Ray off the pedestal she and so many others had placed him on. “When I went through those rebellious years, I had to knock him down; and he was way up there, so the fall was pretty hard for him and for me…. It’s taken me all these years to know my father as a human being, and accept him as a human being, and I don’t ever want to put him on that pedestal again. Because it wasn’t where he wanted to be, and it wasn’t his place to be there, and I just love him so much more now that I know him as a human being and accept him for who he really is.” (Susan Stedman, interview.)

And when his daughters began to experience the consequences of poor choices and needed help, they found their father–and their mother–waiting with open arms. “Over and over again. . . I pushed my parents to the limit,” says Laurie. “But I always felt like they loved me. I never felt rejection. . . . There was always forgiveness.” (Laurie Stedman, interview.) Each daughter experienced this forgiveness and has her own story to tell of a special “homecoming” with her father, when he became the channel of God’s grace to her.

“Dad and Mom were so supportive through the years,” Linda remembers. “In 1981, in the midst of a very difficult marriage, I left my husband and took our sons back to Palo Alto to live with Dad and Mom. They welcomed us with open arms. By then, I was desperate to find my way back to the Lord. My view of God was so distorted by my own sin and the worldly philosophies I had embraced. Dad quickly got me connected with a Christian psychiatrist–a preacher’s kid himself–who helped me get a clear perspective of God’s grace, and assured me that God loved me right where I was, in spite of all my sin and rebellion. It was the beginning of spiritual healing in my life.” (Linda Stedman, e-mail to author, September 1, 2002.)

Sheila’s “homecoming” took place after her father had already retired and was battling cancer. “On a visit to see Mom and Dad in Grants Pass, Dad found out he had cancer. I was in shock! How could that be? We had grown closer over the years, he had grown softer and sweeter, had retired from PBC, and was finally able to relax and enjoy less pressures of the ministry. . . . ”

My son, Jason, had been living the party life in high school, was dating lots of girls, but lately had been dating a particularly sweet girl, Jennifer, and had found out, just weeks before the terrible news about Dad, that he was going to be a father. He and Papa had formed a very close relationship since his birth, being the first grandson and the apple of Papa’s eye. When Jason heard the news, he rushed down to Grants Pass with Jennifer and told Dad how sorry he was for messing up his own life and now his treasured Papa was dying. Dad, in his gracious, loving manner, reassured Jason that it was not bad news at all, but great .news that he would be seeing his Lord soon, and that he, Jason, should realize that life is only temporary. That he should marry Jennifer and turn his life over to the Lord. And do you know, that was the turning point in Jason’s and my life. . . . ”

From that day forward, both me and my children have all come back to a real, personal, fulfilling relationship with our heavenly Father and it has a great deal to do with Dad’s own example of who a father should be. He forgave us when we rebelled against him, and loved us in spite of our ingratitude and selfishness! When I look back on our life together I realize how incredibly blessed I was to be chosen to be my earthly and my heavenly Father’s child!” (Sheila Stedman, e-mail to author, August 26, 2002.)

During the sixties and early seventies, PBC became one of the most well-known and innovative churches in the nation, and Ray became a Bible teacher and author of international renown. But it was in the context of his family that God was refining and conforming Ray into the image of Christ.

In the end, Ray Stedman was a portrait of integrity not only in the church, but in his home as well.

Title: Ch 8: Treasure in a Clay Pot Author: Mark S. Mitchell
Series: Portrait of Integrity Date: 2004

How God Persues Prodigals ~ Ray Pritchard

This is a very interesting take on the prodigal…Can we help our prodigals too soon?

Ray Pritchard writes, “Sometimes in our attempt to reach out to the prodigals we know, we can intervene too soon. Do you remember what happened to the prodigal son in Luke 15? After he had wasted all his inheritance in wild living, he ended up feeding the pigs (Luke 15:15-16). As Eugene Peterson puts it, “He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any.” If you saw that, you might think, “That young man is ready for a new life.” Maybe so, maybe not.
Sometimes in our attempt to reach out to the prodigals we know, we can intervene too soon.

In the story Jesus told, the father waited for his son to return and then ran to meet him when he was still far from home. What if the father in the story had gone after his son and tried to bring him back even one day early? The son would have said, “If only you had left me alone for one more day, I would have made all my money back because I was investing in pork bellies.”

So it goes. We may think that someone has hit rock bottom when they are still scheming a way out of their problems. It was not until the son “came to his senses” that he decided to return home. That has to happen to every prodigal son and daughter, and it cannot be predicted or forced.

Repentance is first of all a work of God in the human heart. If you come a day too soon, the prodigal will always think, “With one more day, I would have figured out a way to solve my own problems.” As long as the scheming and lying and deceiving continues, the best thing we can do is to pray for God’s Spirit to bring them to their senses and to wait patiently until that day comes.”

I know you will be greatly encouraged reading Part 1 and Part 2 of this sermon by Ray Pritchard on his website  Keep Believing. 

Toward the end of  his sermon Ray gives these  comforting words…

God knows where they are.
God knows what they are doing.
God knows how to reach them.
God knows how to bring them back.

Between now and then, never give up.

Never give up.
Keep believing.
Keep on praying.

31 Days ~ Joy in the Presence of the Angels

Day 26 ~ Joy in the Presence of the Angels
Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents.” Luke 15:10What a beautiful thought this morning! I visualize the heavenlies full of rejoicing magnificence. And it happens every day…every day somewhere there are those that fall on their knees in repentance. What joy it must bring!
“I ask that he will make the angels sing, Father.
I pray he will turn from his past and run with an open heart and mind to you!

I can imagine the joy.
My joy here on earth would only be part of a much larger celebration, because “There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10)
Your word tells of “thousands upon thousands of angels” joyfully praising you (Hebrews 12:22), and so they should!
You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being” (Revelations 4:11)
You created my son and gave him life.
You long for him with an everlasting love.
You loved him so much that you gave your “one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
No wonder the angels sing when one sinner repents!” ~ James Banks

Praying today that our sons and daughters will know the joy of repentance. Praying that our prodigals will give their hearts to the Lord soon. Rejoicing today for every prodigal that repents this very day and the joy that they bring to all around them.

Praying too, Father, that Your joy, Your peace that passes all understanding will keep the minds and hearts of all the parents as they wait to see their prodigals return.

31 Days ~ Going the Extra Mile

 Day 20 ~ Going the Extra MileAnd whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.” Matthew 5:41It isn’t all a bed of roses when a prodigal returns.

In the parable the father is delighted and rejoicing, but the brother obviously has some problems with the attention that is bestowed on the wayward son.

There, of course, are many lessons in this parable for us to learn…

The prodigal, even though repentant, will bring back the consequences of his behavior.

The wasted years will show themselves evident in his life, as if he has to start again at square one. If he has a gift, it may be that gift was taken away from him and he has to settle with less.

He may bring back a wife who was with him in his rebellion and consequently does not have the same values as you.

Regardless what it is we are compelled to go the extra mile. We can open our arms with forgiveness and rejoice in the return, yet there will be rough spots in the road, and our love must be as Christ’s love for us…full of forgiveness and compassion.

All of it…this whole prodigal journey…is so like what our Father deals with in each one of us…what Jesus died for in each one of us.

Can we not go the extra mile, as He does with us?

James Banks ~ “This isn’t an easy road, but I accept it gratefully knowing that I’m following You.

I know by faith that this road comes out in a better place for him and for me if I keep my eyes on You.

I pray that I will continue in “faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel“. (Colossians 1:23)

Because love always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:7)

You are not only watching You are with me.

When I “pass through the waters” of difficult days, You have promised, “I will be with you.”

When I pass “through the rivers” – those days when we’re in over our heads – you have said, “they will not sweep over” us.

Even when I “walk through the fire” of trial or temptation or anger, “I will not be burned if I stay close to You (Isaiah 43:2)”

Help us stay close to You, to keep our eyes on You, to be like You… to seek You early, to draw near to You, to acknowledge You in all our ways, so that our paths will be directed by You. Help us, Father, to go the extra mile, not just what is expected of us, but what may be out of our comfort zone.

Praying today that each one of You will know that you are not alone on this journey. This particular trial is set before you for a reason. It is the cup that the Father has given you to partake of, but Jesus will never leave you, or forsake you. Keep your eyes on Him and you will not sink no matter how violent the storm. He is with you forever and for always.

31 Days ~ Prayer Makes a Difference

Day 8 ~ Prayer Makes a Difference

The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” James 5:16It is because of what Christ has done in us that we can be called righteous. He is our righteousness. And because He is TRUTH and the Word is TRUTH, we can trust that what James says here is true.

And if that is the case we have a very powerful advantage in fervent prayer, because it avails much.

James Banks uses a different translation…”The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”He says, “Your word tells me that the prayers of a righteous man are powerful and effective – and this means that even my prayers are, because of what you have done for me. Jesus has become for me my “righteousness, holiness and redemption“. (1 Corinthians 1:30)”

 So,  let’s keep on praying and believing. We may not see with our physical eyes a difference, but I know that our prayers are effectual. Looking back on my situation…I didn’t see any hope. In fact the only hope that I had was that as believers we are to hope, and I felt that not to hope would be unbelieving. Yet, God was working it all out behind the scenes. When he opened the curtains to reveal His glory, I was astounded. It really was as if this nightmarish black curtain fell over us, and 6 years later the curtain lifted…the nightmare lifted and now it is a dreamy mist almost unreal…the secret place of the Most High. Yet, He is there all the time…

Remember…Prayer makes a difference!
Praying for you today…

31 Days of Prayers for Prodigals ~ For Chains to Fall

I have been praying through James Banks book Prayers for Prodigals and decided to discipline myself to pray for prodigals and their families for 90 days…Yes!…That’s how many prayers are in this wonderful book. So my daughter suggested that I go ahead and do the 31 Days ~ a challenge to post all through the month of October with the rest of the incredible, encouraging delightful bloggers out there, and share what I have been given to share. So here goes…

Day 1 ~ For Chains to Fall

One of our very good friends and a brother in Christ is a returned prodigal… His story is a little different than ours, as he ran from God when both his parents died in a car wreck when he was 18. For 12 years he ran from the pain…ran from God…

Today he is a man of God. He has a wife and 3 beautiful children. Circumstances have been very rough lately. When he returned he did not have parents to return to…he had to face an immense loneliness that very few of us have had to face…

He is a horse-shoer and he writes a blog…this is what he shared today after writing about all that he had to do to replace the handle of a very important tool…his hammer.

“Today I have a hammer handle that feels amazing, does it’s job very well, is easy on my hand as I drive nails. Yet it holds the scars of being driven in a spot not large enough for it, burnt by fire, infused with green poison, all to make it into the exact utensil desired.

That’s kinda how Yahweh does with us sometimes. We see constant failure in life…He sees perseverance in the making. We see loneliness…He sees someone being groomed to stand alone in the gap. We see hurt and heartbreak…He sees someone being given a huge, unique, dose of compassion. We see persecution and shame…He sees someone being refined by fire. Little bits of our old self being stripped away and cast aside in a pile of ash; spent and beaten we emerge a vessel worthy to be called a fellow heir to the Throne. Always will we bear the scars of the fire, the hammer of the Master as He buffets our soul. Refining us with every blow. Until we are made to fit His hand perfectly, to be wielded by the Master for His perfect purpose.” ~ A Journey to True Freedom

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to hear your prodigal utter words like this? It takes deep refining that only God can do in our prodigal’s lives and in our own lives as well.

……………………………………………………………………….

“He brought them our of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains.” Psalms 107:14

“My son has his chains too, Lord.They’re not made of iron. They’re made from the sins he forged of his own free will, thinking they would bring him more freedom.

They’ve done anything but that. They’ve only kept him from coming closer to you.

You promised that “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36)

Your word says, “The Lord sets prisoners free” (Psalms 146:7)

Set him free, Lord! He needs You to break his chains.I ask to hear the sound of chains falling with a dull thud, never to be put on again.

I long to hear my son say, “The Lord has done great things” for me and I am “filled with joy” (Psalms 126:3)

~Prayer by James Banks

The Change We’ve Been Looking For…..Begins in US! ~Diane Viere

So many families who live with the dysfunction of a wayward loved one struggle to find just the right solution that will cause their loved one to change. Paralyzed by fear, defeated by hopelessness, they walk through life never experiencing joy….joy has been deferred until…until…until their loved one changes.
Lifetimes are spent sacrificing personal well-being and fulfillment all in an attempt to change someone else.
Body, mind and soul become depleted as we become financially, spiritually, and emotionally bankrupt.
No matter what we do, we cannot effect change in the life of our loved one. We wait. We search. We believe we are responsible for the change in their lives; and the pain of our struggle grows as we continue to refuse to accept that which we do not want to accept.
“We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change.” ~ Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend
BREAKING NEWS: You are the change you’ve been looking for!
You are NOT responsible for the choices, the behaviors, the consequences of your prodigals life.
He/she IS responsible for his/her choices, behaviors and must face the sting of the consequences to learn from their prodigal journey. As long as we continue to assume the responsibility (cross THEIR personal boundaries), we rob them of the growth opportunity that is presented with every poor choice, every dangerous action, every irresponsible behavior. As long as we continue to enable our prodigals, we engage in their journey causing significant collateral damage. Both to them and to us.
The change you’ve been looking for is IN you!
Things do not change; we change. ~ Henry David Thoreau
You can step into JOY today: YOU can change!
* Decide today to step back into your life.
* Build a fence around you. Define what is your responsibility and what is not. Remember, fences keep danger out and keep you inside, safe from entering harm’s way.
* Begin your ‘boundary training.’ Respect your fence! Honor your boundaries! “Do” your boundaries!
“If your boundary training consists only of words, you are wasting your breath. But if you ‘do’ boundaries […others] will internalize the experiences, remember them, digest them, and make them part of how they see reality.” ~Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend
Feel the effectiveness of Dr’s Cloud and Townsend’s words: Here we’ve been trying to affect change for all of these years….and all we had to do was establish and ‘do’ our boundaries! We are the change we’ve been looking for!
* Choose what will be protected behind your new fence: your joy, your happiness, your dreams, your goals. Family, finances, faith, fun! What do you want your life to look like? Remember, life is NOT a dress rehearsal! You pass this way only once…isn’t it time to take the reins of your life…and ENJOY!
But what about our prodigals? How can we move on without them?
Grab your Bibles and read Luke 15: 11-24. I’ll be here waiting…go ahead…give it a read 🙂
I just have one question: What did the father of the lost son do?
He did not chase after his prodigal and enter the pig pen with him.
He did not save his prodigal from hunger, despair, or squander.
He! Stayed! Home! He stayed behind his front gate and continued on with his life. Oh, he awaited the return of his lost son (and I can imagine him sending his servants each and every day to look for his son’s return) for we read in vv 22-24: “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”
The father waited, but he never took one step out of his own life, his own purpose. He didn’t engage in his prodigal’s journey in spite of the famine, hardship, danger or despair.
If you love a prodigal–you KNOW, how you KNOW–this could not have been easy.
And yet, what do we learn from the father in this parable?
STAY PUT!
STAY STRONG!
PREPARE FOR THE BANQUET!
We’re gonna need a fortress of boundaries to prepare for that banquet, aren’t we, for with every word of struggle our prodigal faces, we are tempted to ease their pain. With every devastating phone call, we are tempted to save her. With every discovery of imminent harm, we are tempted to pay the price in their stead.
Yet, if we continue to try to change that which we cannot change, how will we ever be able to one day throw a banquet upon their return home if we are broken emotionally, financially and spiritually.
The change begins in us!
Return of the Prodigal by Lionello Spada

Speaking of Waiting…

How long? Oh, how long does the Good Shepherd take to answer our prayers and bring the lost sheep home?

Be assured He is watching and waiting for the perfect time…He knows our hearts, he knows our names…they are written in His hands…He knows the perfect time…

My daughter Sarah did a great post the other day on Waiting…here’s the link to her blog…

Deeper Still

Painting ~ Shepherd Seeking the Lost Sheep by Karin Naylor

"I Will Arise And Go" ~ Tozer

“I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned.” ~Luke 15:18
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When Jesus told the story of the Prodigal Son, He was giving our lost society a graphic picture of more than a willful son or a backslidden man.
Years ago I spent time alone with God in prayer and supplication, asking the Spirit of God to aid me in the comprehension of the parable of the Prodigal Son. I have relied upon the understanding which I believe God gave me.
I believe the Prodigal Son is God’s clear-cut picture to us of the entire human race that went out to the pigsty in Adam – and came back to the Father in Christ!
The most telling part of the parable is the fact that the errant son “came to himself” – and that speaks to us of the reality and necessity of repentance. He could repent and turn and seek forgiveness because he knew that his Father had not changed. He knew the character of his Father. Except for that knowledge, he could never have said:

“I will arise and go to my Father!”
Brethren, all of us who have come back to God by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ have found, as did the prodigal that the Father in heaven has not changed at all! ~ A. W. Tozer
The Return of the Prodigal Son ~ Rembrandt

Wandering Children by Susanne Scheppmann

Here is a devotion by Susanne Scheppman that I found very encouraging. She relates her own experience, and how she attributes her return to the faith to the fervent prayers of her mother. So, my friends, keep on praying.

The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” James 5:16

“Research shows that our children are wandering from the faith. “Why?” we ask. The answer is not simple. Even the experts realize the reason our children wander from the faith is multifaceted.

The truth is our children are straying from Christianity rapidly as soon as they move into their twenties. According to a recent George Barna study, “In total, six out of ten twentysomethings were involved in a church during their teen years, but have failed to translate that into active spirituality during their early adulthood.” Again, there is no concrete answer to the questions of why our children wander.

But I know this statistic holds true in my own life. I became a Christian at the age of 15. I was on fire for Jesus. I loved Him from the depths of my soul—with all my heart, mind and strength. But then in my mid-twenties I walked away from my faith. Why?

For me, it was because I could not understand pain and suffering. If God was good, how could He allow all this junk in my life? I remember going to my pastor’s wife for help with this question. However, I felt she criticized me for my lack of faith rather than help me comprehend God’s ways. So I didn’t return to her for counseling; instead I turned to my friends who seemed to understand my confusion. Sadly, they weren’t walking strong in their own faith and inadvertently led me further away from God.

For seven years I walked in a desert of destructive sin.

Finally, after years of frustrated living, Jesus drew me back to Him. It wasn’t a big church event. It wasn’t a friend who witnessed to me about my sins. It was the Spirit of God who nudged me back to being a devoted follower of Christ. It wasn’t mystical. It was not full of fireworks—it occurred in a Volkswagen Jetta in the parking lot of Knott’s Berry Farm. It was just Jesus reconnecting with His lost lamb because of the prayers my mother prayed for me.

I do believe wholeheartedly that my mother’s prayers were answered. Her prayers never wavered. Her love never failed. She persevered when the future looked bleak for her eldest child’s faith walk. Never underestimate the power of a parent’s prayer. Our key verse declares, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” If you are a parent of a wandering child, hold fast to this verse in your mind and pray for your child.

God hears. He answers. I know this to be true because I was child who wandered, but was brought back by the fervent prayers of a praying parent and the loving hand of God.”

Dear Lord, give me the strength and faith to keep praying for my child. Help me understand, though it might take years, You are a God who hears and answers the prayers of a praying parent. In Jesus’ Name, Amen