Is the Light On In Your House?

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“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

Jesus said to every Christian in Matthew 5:14-16

Have you ever noticed that the Holy Spirit shining through you can either light up a room or clear it? I’ve often told my husband that I wonder if we’re not invited to certain events because of our conservative Christian beliefs. We don’t drink, swear, tell dirty jokes or laugh at them … but we’re a lot of fun, kind to people, and remember everything we said or did the night before!

Proud to be a “Right-Winger”

Recently, I had a conversation that shed some light [pun intended] on why some people might be uncomfortable around us. I was talking with a repairman who had recently done some work in a new neighbor’s house. He described them as: “They’re really nice people, but very right wing! I couldn’t get the h*** out of there fast enough.”

Seeing the shocked look on my face, he quickly interjected, “But they’re really, really, really nice people!”

I thought to myself, Of course they’re really nice … they’re Christians.

A friend recently wrote a blog about her missionary work in Brazil where their group went into homes sharing the Gospel, and experienced the same reaction as this repairman. She wrote:

“The aroma of Christ – Wow! Now I get it! Those whose hearts were open to the leading of the Holy Spirit said “Yes” to Jesus. Those who closed themselves off from the Holy Spirit could not wait for us to leave their house. Either way, God was pleased as we continued to share the awesome gift of salvation.”

Two verses come to mind:

They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Ephesians 4:18

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14

Then I wondered how many workers or guests had come into our Christian home and couldn’t wait to get out? Probably a few. Our prayer is that they would be attracted to our light and not repelled.

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For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Ephesians 5:8-10.

My Walk on the Dark Side

For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life. Psalm 56:13

I remember clearly what it was like when I was walking in spiritual darkness during my backsliding days, and so I have insight into people blinded to the light of Jesus. Maybe God allowed me to experience those dark days so I would know how to reach people stumbling in the dark, who think their sin is actually fun and become defensive when someone tries to shine the Light into their evil dark world.

During my dark days, I wasn’t ready to listen to anyone, even though God tried many ways to reach me. I can remember making frequent business trips from Orange County to Bakersfield and the only radio station that would come in was a Christian station. Often, the same thing would happen at home.

I also had a Christian girlfriend who was single like me and our children were friends. She would often talk to me about the things I was doing, but I wrote her off as just a really nice friend; but I didn’t let her words penetrate my hardened heart.

Another time, I hired a Christian as an insurance agent to work in my division and he brought several others on board. I remember looking out of the high-rise office-building window and seeing them huddled together in prayer in the parking lot. I was appalled at their open display of faith. I wonder now if maybe they were praying for me. Later, after I rededicated my life to the Lord, I found myself out of a job for professing my faith!

God protected me during the many dark days when I made foolish choices, even as I would sit in church on Sunday morning and know I was going to sin that night. Only by the grace of God did my daughter and I survive my role modeling to her the dark side of a seemingly successful life. I write openly about those days in my book Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter. I was a prodigal raising a prodigal.

Children role model

We’ve All Experienced the Dark

I get so frustrated with those who are intentionally living a sinful life today … stumbling around in the dark, especially those who know better … Christians, who like me, walked out of the light back into the darkness. Satan makes sin seem alluring, just like he did with Eve. He even makes it seem fun. After all, if sin wasn’t fun, why would anyone do it? When the Light shines on that “fun,” we all look back and think how could I have thought that was fun … it was sick and depraved.

Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord. Psalm 89:15

Those of us who now live in the Light all came out of some kind of spiritual darkness, blinded to the truth of the Gospel. It’s hard to imagine that anyone would choose to go deeper into the dark when they’ve experienced the light, but sadly many do and many are sitting in our churches today. They show up on Sunday, maybe attend a Bible study, and even could serve in a ministry, but they’re living a lie. There’s blatant sin somewhere in their life and the Light is convicting them…but not enough to change their ways.

You know what I’m talking about, the couple that looks so perfect sitting together and smiling through a Sunday morning service and the shock the church feels when they find out the husband has been having an affair for years or is addicted to porn. Maybe that husband was your pastor. No one is above the wiles of Satan! That’s why I am such a proponent of mentoring and accountability. We all have potential to fall away … we need someone shining the light into our life and asking us hard questions.

Our world is falling into darkness at a faster speed than ever in history. Who would have imagined 20 years ago that:

  • The Supreme Court would change the definition of marriage to accommodate same-sex marriage, when homosexuality is abominable to our God and marriage is the sacred replication of Christ and His church?
  • A once God-fearing nation would now try to take God out of every aspect of public life?
  • Planned Parenthood would not only be murdering babies in their mother’s womb, but also be selling precious unborn baby body parts? Barbaric is the word we would have used! Detestable unbelievable!
  • Or that our government would sign a treaty with our enemy and put our ally Israel in direct danger?

And yet, every day, there’s another shocking headline that our world is submerging deeper into the depths of darkness, a mire from which we may never recover.

Where is our Hope?

How do we keep our light shining when the world wants to snuff it out?

How do we stay strong and keep the aroma of a Christ-centered home?

woman-reading-bibleNo other way, but through abiding in Jesus and the Word of God. No other way! Do you believe that? Are you in His Word EVERY day? Are you praying every day for a revival of the Light? Don’t lose hope and don’t lose courage.

If you’ve let the darkness slip back into your life, repent, ask Jesus for forgiveness, and turn from your wicked ways now. Find a mentor or a pastor to help you make the necessary changes and then walk in the Light.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Flashlight-BFL-206-If you understand what I’m talking about when I say “live in the Light” then shine your spiritual flashlight into the lives of those you know who need Jesus. None of us knows when He’s coming back, but we do know that He is coming and those still in the dark will be in darkness forever. I hope that’s a sobering thought for you as you think of that relative, friend, neighbor, or co-worker who needs salvation and needs it now.

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 1 John 1:7

Many liberals on the left side are angry, defensive, and lashing out calling us things like “righteous” as if that’s a dirty word. “Christian” is spit out as vial. “Right wing” someone they need to avoid. They’re so angry and mean … because they’re living in a world of Satan’s darkness with no hope beyond this life. This is all they have and they have no hope for any kind of life after death … which could be right around the corner for any of them. Christians say death where is it’s sting, and they cry don’t let me get stung by death.

“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.—1 Corinthians 15:55-57

I don’t have all the answers as to how God will let you shine your light, but God does, so ask Him. What does He want you to do? How does He want you to do it? Then listen for that still small voice and look for that bright spotlight He’s going to shine on the opportunity. You have nothing to lose, but you just might be the flashlight He will use to wake someone up to the Truth that will set them free from the grip of Satan.

The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.

Revelation 21:23-25

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A Glimmer of Hope for Your Prodigal

Watching child struggle through life

 

“Moms, you know how it feels when you see any glimmer of hope in your prodigal.” —A praying mom

Moms of prodigals will identify with that glimmer of hope. I know I did.

Praying Mother Alice’s Story

I recently received an email from a mom who had shared her story in Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter: Hope, Help, & Encouragement for Hurting Parents. On page 178 in the chapter “Confronting Our Own Mistakes,” Alice said:

*My daughter, Liz, has chosen to cut off her relationship with me. I made many wrong choices that hurt her. I’m so sorry and have apologized many times, but Liz refused to forgive me. I’m saddened by the wall she’s built to protect herself from being hurt emotionally again.

My guilt over Liz plagued me; I felt captive by her refusal to forgive me. I’ve beaten myself up for not being the perfect mother and not saying or doing the right things. Truth is I make mistakes all the time. I hurt people—not intentionally—but it happens when I’m thinking of myself and not of how my words and actions affect others. With God’s help, I’m working on changing that part of my character. In the meantime, I continue praying that God will soften Liz’s heart so she’ll be able to forgive me and any other person who has hurt her.—Alice

Alice sent me her heartbreaking story of the estrangement from her daughter eight years ago. I know many who identify with her pain and regret and the deep desire to restore her relationship with her daughter and to receive her daughter’s forgiveness.

Last week, I received an email from Alice with the subject line: Update on Prodigal Daughter “Liz.” Following is Alice’s update shared with her permission. I hope Alice’s openness and vulnerability encourages those of you who are still praying for a reunion with your prodigal.

The separation started 27 years ago when my “prodigal daughter” had completed college. She didn’t need my financial support or close personal connection anymore.

The separation gap widened four years ago when Liz told me she needed a break!

The break I imagined was time for her to sort things out that were plaguing her: divorce negotiations that dragged on, the decline of her dietician business with fewer clients, stress of raising a son as a single mom, and then there was “me.” I was the mother she felt was not there for her as a teenager when she was having major issues with her stepfather. It turned out that Liz wanted a permanent “break” from me.

My heart ached to see her and talk to her. That wasn’t an option open to me. What I could do during these past four years was to pray and wait until my daughter was ready to connect again. I prayed for a softening of Liz’s heart. I also prayed God would help me understand why my middle daughter wanted no part of my life.

As I wrote in my journal recently, I asked the LORD to give me a better understanding of what I was dealing with. He answered me with a clear example of my daughter as a person encased in ice—unable to move, feel love, or reach out for help. Liz was stuck in a frozen place where anger, resentments, and bitterness imbedded her mind and heart. She could not free herself.

My son sensed my pain of rejection and separation from Liz. Out of his compassion for me and the desire to have his nephew, Bobby, know his grandmother, he arranged a luncheon meeting at a restaurant this month to celebrate my 76th birthday. As the date grew closer, I prayed more intently that I would keep the attention on my daughter, her son, and my other two grown children who were to attend. I wanted to let our get-together be all about them—not me.

On the day of the family meeting, I brought peace offerings. I baked my grandson’s favorite Christmas cookies and took several pages from a photo album that had elementary school pictures of my three children when they were Bobby’s age. It turned out to be an “ice-breaker.”

As we met, my heart pounded then rejoiced when Liz was friendly toward me and open to conversation. After lunch, as Liz and I made our way to the restroom, she said that her son, Bobby, wanted to see me more and she was sorry that it had not happened before. She invited me to come to her home this coming Christmas for a few days to bake cookies with her son. Words eluded me but my heart sang for joy.

It took my prayers, the efforts of my only son, and the desire of Liz’s little boy—my grandson—to spend time with me that brought about a change of Liz’s heart. “And a little child will lead them.” Isaiah 11:6

Never Stop Praying

You’ve heard me say it before, and I know it’s so hard to do when your heart is breaking and you don’t see any change in the situation, but never stop praying for your prodigal. Alice prayed for 27 years. I prayed for six years for my prodigal. Previous blogs from prodigal Alycia Neighbours related how long her parents prayed for her return: Never Stop Praying for Your Prodigal! and After the Party for the Returning Prodigal.

As Alice said above, many times prayer is the only thing you can do when everything else is out of your control. In the chapter on Praying Biblically in Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter, Alice told how she prayed scripturally for her daughter, which is how I also prayed for my daughter. It’s simply personalizing and paraphrasing God’s Word as a prayer back to Him (See 40 Days of Praying Scripture for Your Prodigal on page 313). Here’s how Alice said she prayed Scripture:

*I’ve learned to pray for my daughter by praying back the Scriptures to God. For example, I pray Ezekiel 36:27-29 for Liz’s heart to soften and for her to return home: “God, give my daughter Liz a heart of flesh to replace her heart of stone toward spiritual things. Through Your Spirit, move her to follow Your decrees and carefully keep Your laws. Help Liz to return home. Allow her to live in the land You, God, gave to her spiritual forefathers; may she be Your child, may You be her God. Save her from all her uncleanness.”

What has helped you maintain a “glimmer of hope” while waiting for your prodigal to return?

*Excerpts from Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter: Hope, Help, and Encouragement for Hurting Parents.

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Never Stop Praying for Your Prodigal!

Many of you have read my book Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter: Hope, Help & Encouragement for Hurting Parents, in which praying mother, Chris Adams, shares the story of praying for her prodigal daughter Alycia. While I was writing the last chapter of the book, Alycia reunited with her family and I was able to include an excerpt from Chris’ journal of their reunion. God’s timing was, as always, perfect. I wrote in the final chapter:

Chris Adams shared and wrote about her story in this book when she had no idea if her prodigal daughter was dead or alive. But just today—this very day—as I conclude this final chapter—there’s another chapter in her story of God’s amazing grace. .

Today, Alycia boldly shares her testimony with you, my blog followers. I’m so proud to introduce to you returning prodigal, Alicia Neighbors!

Prodigal drawing

I Ran From My Family and God

I started running away from my family and God when I was in my early teens. I ran because I sought acceptance, approval and an excitement I didn’t believe I had within my home. I ran because I wanted to be my own boss of my destiny and thought I could find my purpose on my own with no help from my earthly family or from a God I couldn’t see or hear.

My answer to any inward or outward conflict was flight.

My parents made the difficult decision to place me in a group home. I thought they just didn’t want me around, and for a while, played the game of the rules that were set up. Then the urge came from nowhere to run again. It wasn’t a suggestion of my mind, but a desire of my heart. Just to prove in this controlled environment that I didn’t need anyone and could once again design my life with no help from anyone else.

I Ran Into an Abusive Relationship

Years later, I found myself in a marriage full of domestic abuse that would not allow me to run. Oh, I tried to run a few times, but he made sure that I regretted it and even threatened my life if I tried it again. Before the marriage, I had a son by another man. After a few beatings from my husband and seeing his anger directed towards my son, I signed away my parental rights to my son’s natural father and took my husband’s suggestion to disappear from everyone.

For eight years, there was no contact with anyone. Often during those times, I had a strong pull to contact my parents, but I wasn’t allowed a phone or alone time away from the house. I was trapped and I began to pray that somehow a way would be made. No easy option presented itself, so I realized I was going to have to make something happen. I emailed my aunt and asked her if restoration was even possible. She encouraged me that my parents loved me deeply and I needed to heal what was broken.

A Praying Mother’s Prayers

In my mother’s prayer journal, she had written:

“After not seeing our daughter Alycia for over 8 years, and hot hearing from her in 3-4 years, I was compelled for the last couple of months to pray that God would just let us know if Alycia was alive. During the last month, Amanda, [her twin sister] unknowing of my prayers, was also searching once again for her on the Internet. She finally came across her name on an email on petfinders.com. It was a response thanking someone for returning her missing dog.

Amanda emailed me the string of emails with this information. That continued to stir my heart and prayers for Alycia. “Sleuth” Amanda, began trying to find the lady who had found the dog, and when she did, she discovered it had taken place a couple of years ago. But as Amanda continued to search, she came across a “last known” address. On Wednesday, November 1, Amanda drove to the address and knocked on the door. No one answered so she left a note saying, “If Alycia lives here, please call and just give us a phone number so we could let her know if someone in our family died.”

I stole my husband’s cell phone while he was sleeping and called my mom. We exchanged some pictures online of her one-year-old granddaughter she had not met and made plans to meet. At this same time, my twin sister had felt the pull to track me down and found the house I had just moved from. We missed each other by about two weeks. My husband was not pleased about my sneaking, but I cracked the door open and even he knew that to prevent me from going wasn’t going to end it. He did send me to the reunion meeting with a broken nose and two black eyes, but I made contact finally.

I Ran Back Into The Welcoming Arms of God and My Parents

Alycia and parentsAlicia and her parents Chris and Pat Adams

The restoration of the prodigal child and parent relationship can take time because of the trust issues formed during flight mode and absences; but it’s not beyond our God’s ability to heal. I would imagine if we sat down with a calendar, every time I felt a “pull” to go home was also the same time that my parents and others were in intense prayer for me.

In my mother’s journal about the experience, she said this

“Alycia knew nothing about my prayers or Amanda’s searching, which is why this had to be the work of the Holy Spirit nudging each of us toward one another.”

Now many years later, my parents and I have a good relationship. My marriage to the abusive man ended through widowhood, and I’m now married to a wonderful man and gained four bonus sons in addition to my three girls. My faith and love in my Heavenly Father has been restored as I allowed Him to finally bless me the way He had always wanted to. I allow His will to dictate my life and no longer feel the need to make my own way. His plan and purpose is so much better.

I have stopped running because everything I ran to—love, acceptance, family, and purpose—had been there all along. It just took my prayers and the prayers of my parents and many others to help me see this.

What do I want you to take away from all this?

1.)   Never stop praying or give up hope on your prodigal. It may be weeks, months or years, but your prayers are essential for your prodigal to feel the “pull” home.

2.)   If you still have limited contact with your prodigal, don’t let them see your bitterness or anger at their actions. Mimic God’s love and acceptance. You can verbalize you don’t like what they are doing, but you will always love them.

3.)   Your prodigal may have found themselves in a situation that does not allow them to come home or make contact. Form large prayer groups to fully cover your prodigal. More prayers, more “pull.”

 

Thank you Alycia! Her last three points, I also cover in Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter: Hope, Help & Encouragement for Hurting Parents, along with the promise that God will always give you all a testimony to share.There are discussion questions at the end of each chapter for family and support groups. My husband and I hold a support group for parents and grandparents of prodigals to give them a safe place to unite in praying for their prodigals. If you have a prodigal, please consider forming such a group.

I have support on my website to help you get started. By the way, the principles in this book apply to both daughters and sons.

Never stop praying.1 Thessalonians 5:17

 

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Mentoring Tips on Raising Godly Children By Crystal Bowman

In my book Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter, I point out that every parent of a prodigal wishes we had done things differently and started praying for our children when they were young, before they became prodigals. In the following guest post, Crystal Bowman author of My Mama and Me—Rhyming Devotions for You and Your Child, shares mentoring tips on raising godly children.

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No Greater Joy

One of my mom’s favorite Bible verses is 3 John 1:4 — I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth.

Now that I am a mother and grandmother, that has become one of my favorite verses as well. My husband and I have raised three amazing children who are all walking with the Lord. As I mentor many young mothers through MOPS (Mother of Preschoolers), they want to know how we did it!

I believe you can be a wonderful, godly parent and still have children who walk away from the faith when they grow up. Many times it is only for a season, but for some, it is longer.

A Solid Foundation

The best thing we can do as parents is give our children a solid biblical foundation by teaching them about God from the time they are babies to the time they leave home. Since most of my books are for preschool children, I pray that the books I write will be a helpful resource for parents as they read and talk about spiritual things with their little ones. Reading with your children is one of the precious gifts of motherhood, and sharing your faith is the most important gift you can give your child.

Kid-friendly Devotions

Making time for bedtime Bible stories or mealtime devotions is a great way to teach children about God and encourage meaningful discussion. My newest book, My Mama and Me—Rhyming Devotions for You and Your Child features twenty-five devotions, each including a rhyming message that teaches children about God, a Scripture verse, a prayer, and an activity that reinforces the theme. The devotions are spiritually solid, yet fun and enjoyable for young children.

The Importance of Prayer

Many of the moms whom I mentor were not raised in Christian homes. They know it is important to pray for their children, but at times they feel inadequate. I remind them that God knows their hearts and they just need to talk to God like they talk to a friend. With that in mind, I wrote a prayer at the end of the book for mothers to pray over their children.

Just Released

My Mama and Me has just been released by Tyndale House Publishers. If you get a copy of the book, you will notice the book was written by two authors—Crystal Bowman and Teri McKinley. I am Crystal Bowman and Teri McKinley is my daughter. I have no greater joy!

Bio: Crystal Bowman is the author of over 80 books for children including The One Year Book of Devotions for Preschoolers, and My Grandma and Me—Rhyming Devotions for You and Your Grandchild. She is also a national speaker, a lyricist, and a regular contributor to Clubhouse Jr. Magazine.

www.crystalbowman.com

www.facebook.com/crystaljbowman

 Crystal Bowman and Teri McKinley

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Who Needs to Hear Your Story?

Sharing Your Story

Another term for “your story” is “your testimony.” A testimony focuses on God, not us. It describes our lives before we turned them over—or returned—to God and on how He changed and transformed us. Your story doesn’t have to have a “happy ending” for you to share it. We give our testimonies to show God’s faithfulness in spite of the circumstances, to let others know they’re not alone, and maybe just to stop someone else from making the same mistakes we did.

When people tell me their hardships, I often advise them to begin journaling because it’s recording the story that will become their testimony.  We must be willing to share our hurts and hang-ups and how God helped us through difficult times. It’s our witness to His faithfulness. It’s the opportunity to give purpose to a crisis. Otherwise, we spend our lives feeling sorry for ourselves. Revealing is the first step to healing.

The Bible tells us that“the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Hidden sin has us in a death grip that will kill us from the inside out. But exposed sin loses its power. We don’t have to worry about others finding out about our past. We can “Thank God we’ve started listening to a new master, one whose commands set us free to live openly in his freedom!” (personalized from Romans 6:18 The Message). One of the steps in most recovery programs is openly telling one’s testimony to a group. Public sharing frees us and allows God to minister to someone in the audience who is going through something similar.

When I told people I was writing Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter and would be including my daughter Kim’s story, they often asked, “How does she feel about that?” I assured them she wanted her story told to help others and, in fact, wrote portions in her own words:

Mom, I want to share my story in your book because you also need my perspective. How can you effectively write about you and me if you don’t know what I was feeling? You can’t teach others what to do correctly if you don’t know what works and doesn’t work with kids. I’m so thankful I’ve come to know the Lord, that my life is so blessed, and that I didn’t make too many serious mistakes along the way. If I can help you save one daughter by sharing my story, then that’s what I want to do!

Your testimony won’t always be shared in a public setting. God will bring people across your path and the Holy Spirit will prompt you to share one-on-one. When people ask Kim and me how we made it through, the best answer we can give them is, “We couldn’t have done it without God.”  And that’s your best answer too!

Kim and I had the opportunity to share “Our Story” at a Mother Daughter Tea at The Journey Church the Saturday before Mother’s Day. Watching my sweet daughter articulately share her prodigal journey as I shared mine, I could only imagine how God was smiling down on us. So many women came up and thanked us for being open and vulnerable.

What story is God asking you to tell and who needs to hear it? In all of my books, I give others the opportunity to have a venue for telling their story. I am currently receiving stories for my next three books. If any of these titles spark your interest, please contact me.

  • How Good is God? I Can’t Remember….10 Ways to Never Forget God’s Faithfulness
  • Dear God, Life is Hard
  • Mentoring: A Way of Life from the Pulpit to the Pew

 

You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14–16 The Message)

 

Excerpts in this article are taken from Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter.


 Kim and me Mother's Day Tea
Kim and me sharing “Our Story” at The Journey Church Mother’s Day Tea
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