Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | January 27, 2020

Kobe Bryant’s Death

The report of NBA Star Kobe Bryant’s death on Sunday sent shockwaves around the globe. As the news continued to unfold, we learned that Kobe’s 13 year-old daughter Gianna was among those killed when the helicopter they were in crashed en route to a sporting event. The report that there were no survivors just added grievous weight to the already surreal news.


Kobe Bryant’s accomplishments both on and off the court are off the charts. He was incredibly gifted. The 41 year-old sports mega-star had won the hearts of his teammates, the respect of his opponents, and the admiration of his fans. Even more important than all of this, he loved and was loved by his wife and daughters.

The response to the news of Kobe’s death was instantaneous. Social media was on fire with tweets and posts expressing shock and disbelief and “this can’t possibly be true” kind of reactions. And rightly so! The grief that has followed Kobe’s death is in direct proportion to how much he had endeared himself to others. You will find grief only where there was once love and admiration.

Kobe’s death has put the thought of death on a lot of people’s mental radars. We tend to not think much about death until death happens. And then, we are forced to deal with its reality, to contemplate again what our respective worldviews teach about what happens after death, and to consider our own mortality.

One thing is certain, no one will be exempt from death or having to deal with its aftershock when it happens to someone we love, admire, or even hate. In thinking about Kobe’s death, I offer the following considerations.

First, Kobe was extremely talented but he was not perfect — no one is. He did however, try to live wisely. He loved his family and he cared about making a positive difference in the lives of others. Each of us have only one life in which to do the same.

Second, Kobe endeared himself to others. That’s why the outpouring of grief has been so great. In contrast to Kobe, the Bible records the story of King Jehoram of Judah (2 Kings 8). He was such a wicked ruler that when he finally died no one cried at his funeral. In fact, the writer of Chronicles records, “he departed with no one’s regret” (2 Chronicles 21:20). How sad! At the very least we should live in such a way that someone will grieve our loss.

Third, we do not know the hour or the day of our death — but that hour and that day will come. Most of us are guilty of making two mathematical mistakes: failing to understand the brevity of life and the length of eternity. We must be prepared to meet God today, for we may meet God today.

My heart is sad for Kobe, his beloved daughter Gianna, and the others who perished in the helicopter crash. May Kobe’s life inspire us to invest in those who will cry at our funeral and may his death remind us of our own mortality and the need to be prepared to meet God.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | January 25, 2020

Mother Teresa Understood

Eleven years ago this month, I took a trip that, in many ways, significantly changed my life.

After a season of prayer and seeking God about how to close the distance between myself and suffering humanity in late 2008, He reconnected me with a woman I had long admired — Mother Teresa. In January 2009, I was on a flight to Kolkata to serve at her homes for the destitute and dying. Kolkata is home to more than a million homeless individuals.


I was amazed that so many years after Mother Teresa’s death, volunteers from around the world continued to pour into Kolkata to serve at her homes. They too, were drawn there because of how Mother Teresa had lived her life in service to the least of these.


I was assigned to serve in the mornings at Prem Dan, her home for the destitute. I spent afternoons serving at Kalighat, her home for the dying. The experience changed the geography of my spiritual life. The borders that had defined the farthest I had ever been and the most I had ever done for God and His purposes were redrawn.

One of the most memorable experiences was watching how Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity served. Every morning, these selfless servants begin their day with prayer and worship. Amazing experience to worship with them. But then, a key component of their service is pausing to pray at predetermined times of the day.


To be honest, I was so into serving that I did not want to take time to pause. There was so much to do in caring for the destitute and dying. But I learned that it was precisely because there was so much to do that the Missionaries of Charity paused to pray for a few minutes several times a day — just enough to be reminded that the divine work that God has called them to do can only be done in dependence upon divine strength.

Mother Teresa understood the power of pausing.

I returned home with a renewed determination to close the distance between myself and hurting humanity by compassionately moving in the direction of people in need. And I returned home convicted that I had crowded pausing out of my life — justifying it because I am always so busy. As with the Missionaries of Charity, the busyness was precisely why I needed to pause.

Tomorrow I will end an extended period of prayer and fasting. As with previous seasons of prayer and fasting I scheduled daily times to pause to connect with God in prayer and to develop greater intimacy with Him. This time I used an app that my friend Gil Harris had told me about and that I had already started using.


The app was developed by Christian writer, adventurer, and New York Times best-selling author John Eldridge and is simply called One Minute Pause. The app is based on the One Minute Pause chapter is his latest book “Get Your Life Back.”


The app offers one, three, five, and ten minute pauses in which Eldridge guides you through the practice of releasing everything to God, restoring your union with Him, and inviting Him to fill you. When I first started using the app the one minute pause seemed like it was ten minutes long. Now, the ten minute pause seems like it is only a minute long.

I am grateful for how God used this app to help me to better focus on Him through my fast. Loved every minute. Now, I have to pause. I have been reminded once again about how important a simple discipline like pausing is in the process of spiritual formation. I have scheduled my pauses in my app and get a reminder so that I don’t forget.

Mother Teresa indeed understood the power and value of pausing. I believe it is one of the things that made her so effective and helped her in the never-ending work of caring for the least of these — something that can easily lead a person to experience compassion fatigue or to burn out. By taking time to pause, she reconnected with the strength she needed to fulfill God’s great purpose for her life. May we do the same.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | January 20, 2020

Safer To Be A Dog

If California Governor Gavin Newsom has his way, then California will become the third no-kill state in the country after Delaware and Michigan. To be clear, becoming a no-kill state has absolutely nothing to do with the sanctity of human life. Instead, no-kill measures extend only to dogs and cats.


Newsom wants California to stop euthanizing animals. He believes that no adoptable or treatable dog or cat should be euthanized. To that end, his new budget calls for a $50 million one-time general fund allocation to the University of California’s Koret Shelter Medicine Program. The center would then develop a grant program for animal shelters.

Promoting the protection of animals from being needlessly killed is not objectionable. But, as Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council observes, “What is objectionable is the fact that they don’t extend this same compassion to living, breathing babies.” For example, California’s attorney general has argued that killing abortion survivors does not qualify as infanticide.

Newsom is a strong supporter of abortion. According to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, at least fifteen percent of all abortions in America take place in California. Newsom has even extended an invitation to women from across the nation to come to California to “fully exercise their reproductive rights.”

In addition to having one of the largest taxpayer-funded abortion operations in the country, California legalized assisted suicide. The state allows encouraging suicide to the terminally ill and promulgated a regulation that allows doctors to prescribe death to dying patients who are involuntarily committed in psychiatric hospitals due to mental illness.

Misplaced priorities have led to an inverted morality in California. Sadly, Newsom’s actions are not the first example of what can happen when people lose sight of God’s creative order and fail to understand that human beings exclusively are made in the image of God.

In January 2018, the Swiss passed a law making it illegal to boil a live lobster because these crustaceans can sense pain. And yet, while the government acted in response to the pain of lobsters, it left its abortion laws intact. No consideration for the child in the womb that can feel pain as intensely, if not more so, than lobsters and adults.

Governor Gavin Newsom and his administration have misplaced priorities because they do not understand the sanctity of life in and out of the womb. By working to stop the euthanizing of animals and failing to extend the same consideration to people, they are making California a place where it will be safer to be a dog than a human being created in God’s image.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | January 17, 2020

Pull Into God’s Garage

I saw an interesting thing while stopped at a red light. I could not help but notice the fellow in the lane beside me. He was a big guy sitting on a big motorcycle — a big and very loud motorcycle.

While the light was red and traffic in other lanes was speeding by, the motorcycle man calmly leaned back to make some sort of adjustment to his rear wheel with a pair of pliers!

What?

Every few seconds he would glance forward to check the status of the light while trying to tighten or loosen or adjust or readjust whatever it was that was locked between the jaws of his pliers. I watched with great interest. When the light turned green the big dude sped on to his destination on his noisy steed.

Now, I don’t know much about motorcycles. In fact, I don’t know anything about motorcycles. But I do have a healthy measure of common sense — which makes me wonder why a fellow riding something with only two wheels would make adjustments to one of those wheels at a stop light.

I could not help but wonder if Mr. Goodpliers continued his repair work at the next traffic light, or if he even made it to the next light.

The more I thought about the motorcycle man, the less uncommon and unusual the whole thing seemed. In reality, there are lots of people who are just like him —

• people whose lives are in need of adjustments but who are too busy to stop and properly make repairs.

• people who insist on trying to fix problems on the run.

• people who will not stop to make minor tweaks and corrections.

• people who feel that as long as the wheels keep turning and the motor makes noise then everything has to be ok.

• people who feel no urgency about pulling off the road to make repairs until a wheel falls off and they come crashing to a horrible halt. And then it takes more than a pair of pliers and thirty-seconds at a stop light to fix things. In some cases all the king’s horses and all the king’s men cannot put the pieces back together again.

Yes, there are many people who are just like the motorcycle man —

• people whose marriages are not running right but who will not take the time to stop for repairs. Instead, they run their troubled marriages at full throttle hoping to make it to the next light.

• well-meaning folks whose parenting is not running properly and are struggling with kids whose obedience is seriously out of alignment.

• parents and kids who are too busy to stop to talk about their problems.

Just plain good-intentioned folks who try to make repairs on the run or who have convinced themselves things are not really that bad. Until the wheels fall off. And then fingers point, tempers flare, voices are raised, accusations are made, feelings are hurt, and damage is done.


What’s in need of repair in your life?

Don’t wait until your wheels start to vibrate to get serious about repairs. And don’t try to make repairs all by yourself. Sometimes you need to spend some bucks to go see a mechanic.

And always remember that God is willing to roll up His divine sleeves to help you. If things are not running properly and you hear the annoying rattles that signal bigger problems, then pull off the road and into God’s garage before you end up in the junk-yard. He can do amazing things with a pair of pliers!

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | January 10, 2020

A Cheap Christianity

The childhood story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears is, among other things, a story about mediocrity. Goldilocks was a fastidious little girl who wanted everything to be just to her likes — to be just right for her.


Goldilocks didn’t want porridge that was too hot or too cold. She didn’t want to sit on a chair that was too big or too small. She didn’t want to sleep on a bed that was too hard or too soft. Goldilocks found comfort in everything between extremes, which is exactly where many Christians prefer their commitment to God.

Webster defines the word mediocre as meaning: “of middle quality, neither very good nor very bad; ordinary; commonplace; average.” Goldilocks Christianity can best be described as mediocre Christianity, or Christianity that is bland and blah.

Anglican Bishop J.C. Ryle, who lived in the 19th century, observed: “There is a common, worldly kind of ‘Christianity’ in this day, which many have — a cheap Christianity which offends nobody, and requires no sacrifice — which costs nothing, and is worth nothing.”

Why do some choose to embrace a common and cheap Christianity?

For some, the cost of a cheap Christianity is just right. The price is not too high and not too low. This kind of Christianity is affordable because it does not make too many demands nor does it risk offending people by asking too much. It asks just enough to make people feel good.

One of the most attractive things about a cheap Christianity is that most people can work it into their budgets and calendars. It gives people enough of a sense of God to make them feel good but not so much that they feel convicted about the shortcomings and compromises in their lives. It does not ask so much that people take offense or so little that people feel insulted.

Like Goldilocks, a cheap Christianity is concerned about comfort — not too soft or not too hard. It is easy Christianity. It is Christianity by name more than by deed, by confession more than by expression.

Cheap Christianity is anemic and passionless. It does not appreciate being held accountable for being and doing less than. It is a dull Christianity that does not make others thirst for God. It does not pierce the darkness. It has no urgency but rather prefers to move at its own pace. It is a Christianity void of earnestness, enthusiasm, and intensity. It is essentially powerless.

Cheap Christianity is fueled by a lower-shelf commitment — the kind of commitment that is within reach but that does not require one to strain in order to grasp. It is characterized by a just-enough kind of commitment that makes no unsettling demands and stops short of being painful. It produces no martyrs, inspires no great deeds, and leaves no memorable legacy.

This new year offers us an opportunity to go beyond a cheap Christianity. Each of us must take inventory of our own lives and become more keenly aware of the line that defines the farthest we’ve ever been and the most we’ve ever done for God and His purposes.

And then, we must step across that line and put ourselves in a context where God can do more in and through us than we ever imagined. Let’s embrace greater intimacy with the Almighty this year and allow Him to use us to bring hope and healing to a hurting world.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | January 1, 2020

I Resolve

Regardless of how you personally feel about New Year’s resolutions, most people will at least give some consideration to how they can make a fresh start at the beginning of a new year.

We tend to be more open to making resolutions (those decisions we make to do or not do something) at certain times on the calendar — like the start of a new year, a new month, a new week, or even a birthday. These temporal landmarks beckon us to refocus our thinking and to reflect a little more deeply about how we can and should reorient our conduct.


On this first day of the new year, each of us should set aside some quiet moments in which to reflect on the actualities of the past and the possibilities of the future. There is value in looking back to take inventory of our journey — and then looking ahead to consider how our future can look different from our past.

This first day of the year is important because it offers us the opportunity for a fresh start, a second chance, or a new beginning.

Fresh starts have a way of giving new meaning to life. Second chances can invigorate us with the resolve to become better and to do better than we ever have. New beginnings can infuse us with purpose, energy, and the determination to walk through doors that lead to new discoveries and adventures.

Keep in mind that resolving to begin anew is not enough. If we make a resolution to do or not do something, then we must intentionally make the choices that keep us on track.

At its core, life is about choices. If we make resolutions, then we should also consider what it will take to maintain them. And we should make sure that the choices we make this year draw us closer to God and the blessings that are found in Him.

Regardless of whether you make a single resolution, a list of resolutions, or no resolution, determine to, at the very least, make sure that these things are reflected in your life.

Honor God
Love others
Value family
Be kind
Give thanks
Be courageous
Take risks
Move in the direction of people in need
Think deeply
Live wisely
Stop making excuses
Do something hard
Encourage others
Stop wasting time
Make the most of every opportunity
Seize the day

Best wishes for a Happy New Year.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | December 22, 2019

Reduce Holiday Stress

I was a seven year-old kid living in San Antonio, Texas in 1963 — the year that Andy Williams recorded a brand new Christmas song entitled, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” And indeed it was a wonderful time in our home. My parents made sure that Christmas was a magical and memorable time for me and my siblings.

For many, however, Christmas is anything but a wonderful time. For them, Christmas has become the most stressful time of the year. Some of this can be blamed on matters outside of our control. But it’s likely that we orchestrate and generate more of our own stress than most of us would care to admit, especially in the current political climate in our country.

We are living in one of the most politically polarized seasons in American history. Regardless of your political leanings, anger over what is happening in our nation’s capital has saturated every fiber of our society, leaving ugly stains in friendships and families. The current political climate change is the result of intolerance belching into the atmosphere and the melting away of respect and civility.

Vitriolic rhetoric has become the new norm — speech fueled by an arrogance that demands that others “see the issues only as I see them” and an intolerance that says, “your views are not worth consideration.” Hatred and intolerance have given birth to willful blindness that refuses to see or acknowledge anything contrary to what we despise about others.


The danger is that in many homes, the joy of Christmas will be edged out by polarizing political rhetoric, especially at the holiday table. The Public Religion Research Institute conducted a survey a year ago that revealed 39 percent of Americans said some political diversity exists within their family. An ABC News survey found that the 2016 election made relationships and friendships tense for a similar percentage of Americans.

For these families and friendships, Christmas can be anything but wonderful. So, how can we guard the sacredness of the family table during the holidays and the irreplaceable treasure of family and friends?

First, look around the room or across the table. Regardless of whether you share the same political views, this is family. Keep in mind that when you get into a bind or find yourself in the hospital or whatever — these are the folks who will show up. Don’t expect any politician to rush to your aid or to cry at your funeral.

Second, in the words of that popular song from the animated movie, “Frozen” — Let It Go. Sometimes the wisest thing we can do is to just let it go lest family relationships become cold and frozen. Don’t allow your anger or frustration about what is happening in Washington to create distance between you and your family.

Third, there has always been scandals and conspiracies and crises in Washington. Politicians come and go. Political seasons always bring change. The guys you love will be replaced by guys you hate only to be later replaced by others — ad nauseam. And when the shoe is on the other foot you can generally count on our political leaders to act like heels.

Fourth, keep in mind that the folks in Washington have enough power without us giving them the power to control our joy or happiness. Don’t hitch your wagon to those horses. Sooner or later you won’t like where they take you. There is only one place where you will find stability — at the throne of God. There are no scandals in heaven. Trust that God is guiding history to accomplish His purposes.

Finally, agree to disagree. If the folks seated at your holiday table hold different political views then don’t allow this to cause you to think less of them or more of yourself. And don’t think that a conversation or argument at the table is actually going to change hearts or minds. It’s not that easy.

Fox News host Jesse Watters and his mom Anne have a great relationship. Jesse is the only conservative in a family of liberals. He is outnumbered at home. Anne often sends text messages to Jesse when he is on the air, taking him to task for his conservative views. However, when it comes to home, Jesse said this:

“I’ve learned that it’s not in either of our interests to have a cutthroat political debate at home during the weekends or during holidays. It just doesn’t get us anywhere.” Anne told The Atlantic magazine that she’s not upset that Jesse is on TV promoting beliefs she doesn’t share. “Jesse is enormously committed to his work and he loves what he does professionally and I deeply respect that,” she said.

Trying to win an argument or convince others of the wrongness of their position is not a formula for holiday cheer. We can learn a thing or two from Jesse and Anne. All things considered, they have not allowed their differences to create distance between them. They love and respect one another. And, ultimately, they understand that blood is thicker than politics.

Best wishes for a less stressful Christmas and a more hopeful New Year.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | December 9, 2019

Embracing God’s Vision


Hillsong Worship made popular the song entitled “Hosanna” — a song in which the worshiper implores God:

Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like you have loved me
Break my heart for what breaks yours
Everything I am for your kingdom’s cause
As I walk from earth into eternity

As the year 2020 quickly approaches, my personal prayer is that God will indeed open my eyes and help me to see the world clearly — to give me 20/20 vision, at least in the spiritual sense. Unless we see clearly we are likely not going to respond proactively to the need around us.

Seeing clearly is also a prerequisite to having our heart broken for what breaks the heart of God — and responding compassionately. Unless our heart is broken for what breaks God’s heart, we will fail to make a difference in our world.

A broken heart is essential to fixing broken things. If we want to make a difference, then we must have our eyes opened and our heart broken for what breaks God’s heart. We must get in sync with the rhythm His divine heartbeat.

When we truly get our heart in sync with His, then we can no longer remain the same. We cannot remain passive or complacent or uninvolved. Instead we will be compelled to reorder our priorities to reflect God’s passions and to intentionally spend ourselves on His purposes.

A heart that is in sync with God’s heart is reflected in a life that is willing to go beyond — to do more than talk a good game but to actually get in the game.

Our missions ministry is committed to three key initiatives in the coming year.


First, we are committed to calling men to embrace God’s vision and design for biblical manhood. To that end we are working with four key national partners to conduct Men of Courage Biblical Manhood Summits in 2020 in Nepal, Cambodia, India, and Brazil.


Second, we remain committed to embracing God’s vision and mandate to move in the direction of the unreached. We have long-standing partnerships to ensure that twelve people groups on the planet gain greater access to the gospel.


Third, we will continue to embrace God’s vision and passion for moving in the direction of people in need. We are engaged in addressing several global concerns that transcend any particular culture — from the fight against human trafficking to championing the sanctity of human life.

Kingsland members will receive their copy of our 2020 missions strategy in the mail. Watch for your copy. Read it from cover to cover. And then pray about how you can give, go, and embrace God’s vision for the nations. Ask God to open your eyes, to break your heart, and to use you to make a difference.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | November 17, 2019

A Passion for Adventure

As a boy, I read about and listened to stories of great adventures — stories that stirred something deep within me. I loved listening to my Dad recount tales of his travels. The black and white photos that chronicled his adventures became my window to the world. I wanted to be in those photos and at those places.

Adventure, I believe, is central to manliness. Sadly, it’s easy for boys, as they get older, to lose the passion for adventure that filled their childhood. Adventure is easily crowded out by the pressures of making a living and juggling a myriad of adult responsibilities. Regaining our passion for adventure, however, is worth the effort and the struggle.

One of the key components of my Band of Fathers core group is shared adventure. In addition to studying and serving together, we set aside time to enjoy adventures. Our adventures are not about the cheap thrills of adrenaline but about making valuable discoveries about ourselves in the context of the great outdoors.

This month several of the guys in my Band of Fathers core group and I traveled west to Big Bend, that magnificent and wide part of the Lone Star State that lies beyond the Pecos River. We wanted to spend some time camping, biking, and hiking in what is one of the most beautiful places on the planet.

We always enjoy our time outdoors. The food and fellowship are always great. Meals just seem to taste better when we are on an adventure. We have the added benefit of having James Meredith in our group — unquestionably one of the best camp cooks in the world (in my humble estimation). His Dutch oven desserts are truly amazing!


Some of the guys in our group headed to Big Bend Ranch State Park to hit the bike trails. This park has miles of challenging bike trails that wind through the rugged terrain of the Chihuahuan Desert. Several of us have participated in the Chihuahuan Desert Mountain Bike Endurance Ride at Big Bend Ranch State Park over the years and have logged lots of miles on these trails.


A few of the guys hung around to help me insulate and install the ceiling in my off-grid cabin in Big Bend. My cabin was our base camp for this adventure. I am excited to make progress on our property and to share the site with my fellow adventurers. It’s a great place to pitch a tent and enjoy a campfire under big Texas skies.


We also hiked a couple of trails at Big Bend National Park, located less than an hour from my front gate. This national park is one of the most beautiful in the country and features the darkest skies in Texas. The vistas are beyond expansive and beyond description. This is iconic cowboy country. It’s easy to let your imagination run wild with thoughts of what it must have been like for those early settlers who were the original off-gridders.


After our Band of Fathers headed for home, my friend Doyle Lowry drove out for some camping and hiking time. We had hoped to summit another 8,000+ foot peak in Guadalupe Mountains National Park located four hours to the north. Wind gusts in excess of 50 mph dictated that we live to summit another day.


Undeterred, we changed gears and headed back to Big Bend National Park to hike for a couple of days. Although we were a bit bummed about not being able to do another peak in the Guadalupe Mountains, we were more than happy to hike at Big Bend. We had some bad weather that eventually cleared and rewarded us with magnificent skies.


I returned home late Friday night refreshed and renewed by my time of shared adventure with good men. I enjoy taking advantage of every opportunity to opt outside and to engage in adventure. As I get older I want to keep my passion for adventure strong, even if it hurts to hike or to paddle or peddle. In the words of county singer Toby Keith, “don’t let the old man in” — lest he come in and quench your passion for adventure. I am committed to keeping the old man from breaking in!

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | November 2, 2019

10 Parenting Lessons

I keep a prayer list on my desk, a handwritten list of people for whom I pray daily. My list includes quite a few names of individuals who have chosen to wander down prodigal paths — and the names of their parents who live daily with the fear of where these paths may ultimately lead their kids.

Having lived through some very dark years when one of my own kids became disoriented, I take seriously the responsibility to pray. I also offer hurting parents practical wisdom gleaned through those years of wondering if our own story would have a happy ending.

I thank God often that our story, that very painful and frightening part of our story, had a happy ending. We are now past those dark years of parenting a prodigal. Looking back, those long years now look like a short chapter in our continuing story — a beautiful story. And, although I wish that we had not experienced what we did, I am grateful for what we learned.

As a dad, the turning point for me came when I finally stopped struggling. I reached a point of exhaustion. I was tired of fighting, arguing, raising my voice, trying to talk sense, and all of the other things we tend to do as parents when we see our kids making bad choices.

I remember the moment as if it was yesterday. I closed the door to my office, sat alone, and wept. I cried out to God from the depths of my frustration and despair and He answered me. “Your son is battling fierce and terrible giants. He cannot fight this battle alone. Stop fighting him and start fighting for him. Become Jonathan’s champion.”

That was the beginning of the end of that awful chapter. I talked with Cheryl, my wife, and told her about what the Lord had clearly spoken to me. I told her that I was going to take the battle to the enemy by praying and fasting.


I fasted a total of forty-two days for my son. Cheryl and I understood that while the answer might not come during that period of prayer and fasting, we believed that those days would set the answer in motion. We braced ourselves for a full head-on collision with the enemy who was determined to destroy our son.

I did not sleep much during those days. Our battle was not against flesh and blood but against an enemy bent on the complete destruction of our child. I talked to God constantly — and I also talked to the enemy. I reminded the Devil several times a day that he would not have our son. If it meant I had to pray and fast for a hundred days I would do it. We would not give up our son.

Over a period of time our son made his way back. Today, he is married to an amazing young lady. So many times I feared I would officiate his funeral. Instead I officiated their wedding. Earlier this year God blessed them with a beautiful daughter and us with our first granddaughter. Looking at my son and his family fills me with deep gratitude to God for this new chapter of Jonathan’s life — a chapter that might never have happened.

Through those years, God taught me these ten lessons about parenting a prodigal.

10. Choices Matter
Erwin McManus, one of my favorite pastors and writers, observed, “The most spiritual activity you will engage in today is making choices. Our choices either move us toward God and all the pleasure that comes in Him or steer us away from Him to a life of shame and fear.” My son clearly made some bad choices, but so did I. Many of my choices caused me to miss the signals that my son was in danger. I try to be more attentive now.

9. Turn Fear Into Motivation
The realization that our story might not have a happy ending was the most frightening thing we dealt with during the dark years. We feared the knock at the door at 3:00 AM to inform us that something awful had happened to our son. This fear motivated us to pray and to fight hard for our son.

8. Fight Strategically
I learned that it was much easier to fight with my son and turn him into the enemy than it was to fight the enemy who was trying to destroy my son. My son was not the enemy. The enemy is the enemy. I learned to fight the right enemy and to do so strategically.

7. Watch and Pray Expectantly
Praying without ceasing took on a whole new meaning during those painful years. Fasting helped me to intensify my prayers with laser precision. I was inspired by the story of the lame beggar in the book of Acts. He looked at Peter and John “expecting to receive something from them” (Acts 3:5) — and received more than he expected. I prayed with the same expectant attitude. Like David, I prayed and eagerly watched for the answer to my prayers (Psalm 3:5).

6. Choose Your Battles
I learned to resist the urge to gripe and complain about every little thing that bothered me lest these skirmishes distract me from the greater war. Don’t complicate things by fighting about things that are symptoms but not causes of the greater concerns.

5. Love Unconditionally
In most cases a prodigal child will know that you do not approve of their choices and behavior. However, never let them doubt your love. Keep your heart open and find ways to affirm your love.

4. Let Them Return at Their Own Pace
Be patient. The first step back is taken only after hitting bottom. Be grateful for every step in the right direction. Celebrate small steps. And, don’t despair when they backslide or lose traction on the way back.

3. Find Ways to Stay Motivated

I created a playlist of songs (on my iPod in those years) that encouraged me to pray for Jonathan and that gave me hope. I listened to those songs every day. In many ways, the lyrics of those songs expressed my hopes.

2. Run In Their Direction
Luke 15:20 says it all about the prodigal son and his dad — “And he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him, and kissed him.”

1. Continue To Be Available
Our choices often have lingering consequences that may take years to resolve. Be available to help your child put the pieces back together. Continue to help them move toward healing and wholeness.

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