VOTD – Father has compassion

"As a father has compassion for his children, so the LORD has compassion for those who fear Him."

Psalms 103:13 (NRSV)

Prodigal Thoughts: Our friends from Oxford Languages defines compassion as "sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others." Sympathetic? That would imply that sympathy is an understanding between people based on a shared experience. Does that mean the psalmist is saying that just as those in a parent/guardian type role (not just parents, but anyone who a child would look up to) are a little ahead on their journey through life, we can better relate and have compassion for the young ones that we have influence over? I mean, that makes sense. But then the psalmist adds our heavenly Father to the mix. Does that mean God has been through the struggles and storms that we face on our journey through this thing called life? You better believe it. That is one interesting thing about the Father (God) and Son (Jesus) being the same yet also separate. When we read the cries from Jesus toward his Father while hanging on the cross in Matthew 27, was God looking away from the pain His Son was going through? He is the ultimate Father. So, everything we face, He is always with us and so He faces the same situations. Jesus’ heart literally bled for our redemption and reconciliation with our Creator. God can truly understand the pains we face, no matter how deep and dark the hurt and the wounds are. In fact, He longs for us to turn to Him in all situations, both good and bad. I can hardly believe that God is sitting on His throne, just waiting for us to make a mistake so He can jot it down and hold our salvation at ransom until we right the wrongs. That would be a sick and twisted father. No, I truly believe that when He says that He is always with us, it isn’t to point out the wrongs, but to guide us toward righteousness (right living), if we would only trust Him and surrender our lives to Him.

Prayer for today: Father, I want to thank You for ALWAYS being near Your children, even when we are convinced You are not there. I thank You for NEVER giving up on us, but holding out hope instead that we would just love You and live our lives for Your purpose. I pray for those that are hurting. For those who feel they are too weak to keep moving forward. Would You give them the strength they need to surrender to You? Would you show them that Your grace You is in such great abundance so they can receive the grace they need to forgive themselves and others that have hurt them? Would You show us how to love You and how to surrender to You? We need You, God, more than ever. I love You, Papa. Amen.

Need prayer? You can reply here or you can send me a facebook message through the Prodigal Thinker page. If this encourages you, feel free to share it. Feel free to reply with feedback as well. I’m always open to discussion.

God’s grace on you…

Photo credit: Gustavo Fring

Erase the Stigma

I know it isn’t Mental Health Awareness month (which is in May of each year), but we really need to do our part to help erase the stigma of mental health every day, not just one month of the year. So, I’ve been taking some time off from the Prodigal Thinker posts for my mental health. With #ADHD I struggle with executive function and oftentimes take on too many things at once or misjudge the amount of time a project will take. I also deal with deep cycles of depression, which I am just coming out of a very deep cycle even now. So, periodically, I need to take a step back and reevaluate my priorities and my mental health. A lot has been going on behind the scenes between my full-time job (really, more than full-time – more like 60-75 hours per week), leading worship at my church, taking classes toward ordination, and several other things here and there, I just spread myself too thin. The Verse of the Day posts are important to me. It’s one of the ways I continue to grow and help to encourage others as well, but as I was reminded over the last week or so, "you can’t pour from an empty cup."

Now, about mental health, there should be NO shame in talking to others about it. Sometimes it starts off with a chemical imbalance in our brains. Sometimes it is born in the midst of traumatic events. Either way, these things are outside of our control. But what we CAN do is talk about our difficulties and seek the help needed to better understand our differences and learn techniques and/or get the medicinal help we need.

If you are not someone who deals with these types of issues (a.k.a. Neuro-Typical), you can be a sounding board to those who face these differences (Neuro-Divergent). If you know/love someone that is neuro-divergent, the best thing you can do for them is educate yourself and then just be willing to listen. In some cases, just being present. During some of my deepest bouts with depression, the most helpful and most healing thing was someone who would just be there. No words spoken. Just being there helped me tremendously.

The last thought on this is that mental illness is not a faith (or lack of faith) issue. Does prayer and reading scripture work and help God speak? By all means, YES! But just as you would not tell someone who is dealing with cancer or some other physical illness that they just need to stop being ill and think thoughts of wellness, the same is true for mental illness. It isn’t a lack of faith. It is merely an imbalance of chemicals or a physical reaction to a traumatic event in the past.

You are loved and prayed for, my friends. Thank you for your patience while I pulled away. I’m thankful for each of you who read these emails/posts. May our heavenly Father bless you for your kindness and goodness.

Peace on you,

Prodigal Mike

Photo credit: CottonBro

VOTD – Now Hear This!!!

"You must understand this, my beloved; let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger;"

James 1:9 (NRSV)

Prodigal Thoughts: Parenting is not for the weak-at-heart. I know I’m not a perfect person by any means. That I fully and freely admit. As the days pass and my children continue to grow into young men and women, I am faced with parts of myself that I don’t particularly like (as far as character or habits are concerned). Some of you know that my wife and I have four children. Currently, one is a teenager and the other three are tweens. Some days are quite the challenge. But the challenge isn’t that they are horrible children. It’s just the opposite. These children are really good kids. As parents, we see two sides of the coin. We see and can relate to the struggles that our kids face since we were kids once, but at the same time, we have an additional perspective of being parents and guardians, trying to provide instruction in guiding them toward being not just "good people" but devoted followers of Jesus. There is another perspective that I have had and continue to face through this parenting journey. That perspective is how much God loves us and yet allows us to have free will to choose our own path. He loves us and He deeply hopes that we will turn our lives over to Him and follow Jesus. Just as our hearts are often broken by the actions or words of our children, so is the heart of the Father when we choose to go astray. About a decade ago, I wasn’t the best father by any means, but by the grace of God and a lot of tough love from those around me, God got my attention and I have been doing all I can to surrender daily so that God can reshape who I am as a husband, father, and follower of Jesus Christ. In the Christian denomination I am a member of, when we baptize a younger person, part of the responsibility is placed on the members of the church in that we will band together and help to encourage and foster the spirit of God in the lives of those who believe in Jesus and receive Him as their Savior. I’ve heard it said many times over that those that are closest to you are likely to hurt you the most. I wish that were not true. But when our hearts break, may we be quick to listen rather than quick to fly off the handle. May we choose our words very carefully so that they promote growth and life rather than cut others down and grow frustration. I know that our heavenly Father knows all about being frustrated at a people that mumble and grumble, or intentionally do the opposite of what is holy. He doesn’t rain down fire on us, but He does shower us with grace and mercy. He forgives us and continues to love us even though we don’t really deserve that kind of love.

Prayer for today: Father, I love You and thank You for being such an amazing and wonderful Daddy to Your children. Thank You for loving us when we don’t seem very loveable. May You grow us, mature us to be better stewards of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Just as the blade of a sword must be tempered in order to become strong for battle, may we grant You permission to temper and shape our hearts into hearts like Yours. We need You more than ever. I love You, Papa. Amen.

Need prayer? You can reply here or you can send me a facebook message through the Prodigal Thinker page. If this encourages you, feel free to share it. Feel free to reply with feedback as well. I’m always open to discussion.

God’s grace on you…

Photo credit: Andrea Piacquadio

VOTD – Welcome to God’s House

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long,"

Psalms 23:6 (NRSV)

Prodigal Thoughts: This verse is the final thoughts of Psalm 23 and it comes within a verse or two of "Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for [God is] with me; [His] rod and staff- they comfort me." David does not hold back regarding his love for his heavenly Father. His confidence in the Father’s ability to provide comfort and peace for him is amazing. In my experience, when life throws it’s hellish punches, I would start back-stepping and would worry what the outcome would be. Would I make it through this spiritual fisticuff or would the enemy get the best of me? I had it all wrong. If we are fully surrendered to the Almighty God, we can actually remain calm. Like it says in Exodus 14:14, "The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to keep still." While He is fighting our battles, we can lie down in green pastures and rest in Him who is stepping in on our behalf. Can life become overwhelming? Well, of course, but that doesn’t mean that we have to wave our little white flags in surrender. If we have already surrendered to God, we can’t really surrender again, can we?

Prayer for today: Father, I thank You for being everything we could ever need. You are our provider and sustainer and Your love never fails or falters. I pray that we, as Your children, would come to the understanding that remaining in surrender to You can give us peace of mind and provide rest like nothing else. May You open our eyes and our hearts to know You more and more each day. I pray that we would find rest in Your love and power. May we be quick to give You praise for all things we face in our lives and invite You on a daily basis to be our constant and our guide through this life. I love you, Papa. Amen.

Need prayer? You can reply here or you can send me a facebook message through the Prodigal Thinker page. If this encourages you, feel free to share it. Feel free to reply with feedback as well. I’m always open to discussion.

God’s grace on you…

Photo credit: Eberhard Grossgasteiger

VOTD – What’s it mean?

So, it has come to my attention that the title of my posts could cause some confusion. When the interwebs were searched, it could stand for "Village of the Damned" (the movie), "Valley of the Dead" (a NetHack game), or my favorite, "Valley of the Doughnuts" (a website).

SO, WHAT DOES VOTD MEAN?!?

It stands for "Verse of the Day."

I used to have "Verse of the Day" in the subject line on each post, but decided to shorten it up a bit. I guess I could always add a #hashtag or something.

What are your thoughts?

Photo credit: Amed Akachda

VOTD – Springs of Life

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.

Proverbs 4:23 (NRSV)

Prodigal Thoughts: I must admit, between being raised in the South and my ADHD going on a rampage today, when I read "Keep your heart," I automatically thought of "Bless your heart." This can be either a phrase of encouragement or complete sarcasm. Thankfully, this verse is encouraging us. How often do we consider what we allow entrance into our lives and our souls? Of course, there are those that do this in a legalistic manner and "ban" any sort of content that would be opposed to their beliefs. Obviously, this verse is a reminder for us that we should constantly monitor not only what is in our hearts, but also the intent behind our words and actions. This will help to make sure that we are out of the way when God chooses to speak to others through us.

Prayer for today: Father, I thank You for Your words of wisdom and guidance that have been written down for us to study and direct our lives. Thank You for providing the perfect example of what our lives should look like on a daily basis. I pray that we would take these words to heart and be cautious of not only the contents of our soul, but how those bear fruit in our lives. I pray that no matter if we are out in public or in the comfort of our homes, our words and actions would be pleasing to You like an incense offering. May You help us be aware of those things that need to be filtered out so You can shine Your light through us. I love You, Daddy. Amen.

Need prayer? You can reply here or you can send me a facebook message through the Prodigal Thinker page. If this encourages you, feel free to share it. Feel free to reply with feedback as well. I’m always open to discussion.

God’s grace on you…

Photo credit:

VOTD – LOVE = No Fear

"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love."

1John 4:18 (NRSV)

Prodigal Thoughts: At the first reading, this verse reminds me of when I first met my wife. I knew on our first date that we would be married. (Thankfully, she had that same feeling.) Our love for one another was so powerful that I felt I could do anything! I could conquer the world…or at least the southeast US. The amazing thing is that God’s love for us is so intense and so powerful that the love that we have for our fellow humankind would seem like an acquaintance-type relationship. Not that we could ever fully understand or feel the depth of our Father’s love for us, but what if we constantly lived in a manner where we pursued God’s love as our main focus of each day. To better comprehend His love for us. How would that change our daily lives? Also, if perfect love casts out fear, then could we safely say that perfect love can make us fearless? God’s perfect love helps us to be confident and bold and with the Holy Spirit guiding us and stirring our hearts, there is really nothing we couldn’t overcome, right? Are you ready for that kind of life? I mean, people ridiculed Jesus for living like this. It just plain freaked people out. The apostles and the Jesus followers lived with the same ridicule, yet they still love recklessly. Who’s with me?

Prayer for today: Father, I thank You for loving us so incredibly much just the amount of love You have for us would fill and overflow even the deepest seas. There is no way we could ever fathom the level of love and grace that You have stored up for us. I pray that You show us how to accept Your love and grace, and that as we do, that it would pour out of every fiber of our being. That it would be unmistakable that the source of our love and grace could only be You. I pray that You would give us the eyes to see and the heart to love those around us that the world has claimed are unloveable. May we see hearts changed as a result of the love You pour through us into others. I pray that we make you proud. I love You, Papa. Amen.

Need prayer? You can reply here or you can send me a facebook message through the Prodigal Thinker page. If this encourages you, feel free to share it. Feel free to reply with feedback as well. I’m always open to discussion.

God’s grace on you…

Photo credit: Shamia Casiano

VOTD – Rescued from Afflictions

"Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD rescues them from them all."

Psalms 34:19 (NRSV)

Prodigal Thoughts: In the bible app I use, the heading for Psalm 34 is "Praise for Deliverance from Trouble" – of David, when he feigned madness before Abimelech, so that he drove him out and he went away. Being honest, I had to look up what "feigned" actually means. Basically, David "pretended" to be crazy so Abimelech would put him out of the kingdom. He must have been in a pretty bad situation to make this up. In fact, there is another account of this in 1 Samuel 21, where David had been running and hiding from King Saul, who was trying to kill David. When I think about this verse and the background of the incident, David was being cautious, but his hope was solely in God. As Abimelech was a priest, David knew that there were some provisions that he would be able to receive as he was still hiding. I mean, David had to have some nerve to make such a scene in King Saul’s kingdom when there were head-hunters everywhere trying to find him. It seems David has/is reflecting on how God has taken care of him so far and prevented injury and/or death so far. The hand of God has saved David’s life over and over again and David penned a song about how amazing God is. What if we lived with hope and faith in what God can do in and through our lives? How would that change our day-to-day interactions with others? Not that we should go around stirring up trouble, but knowing that as we are living in a manner that is Christlike and that our Heavenly Father upholds the righteous.

Prayer for today: Father, You truly are mighty and worthy of praise. Even when we are facing our most desperate times of need, You are there. You continue to guide us on a path that was paved by Your Son and that will lead others toward Your loving and welcoming arms. May we appear a bit crazy from the world’s standards as we live our lives in surrender to You and fueled by the compassion and grace you have extended to us. I love You, Papa. Amen.

Need prayer? You can reply here or you can send me a facebook message through the Prodigal Thinker page. If this encourages you, feel free to share it. Feel free to reply with feedback as well. I’m always open to discussion.

God’s grace on you…

Photo credit: Andrea Piacquadio

Prayer Needs for this week

Hello friends!

Below is a list of prayer needs and updates if you would like to join in prayer. If you have prayer needs of your own, please feel free to let me know. You can reply here or send me a message through Facebook. You are prayed for and loved, my friends.

HEALTH ISSUES

Alice P. – enlarged liver
Anne H. – Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s

Darrell B. – Battling cancer and other health issues

Harold C. – Health issues arising from surgery – Change in living situation

Ilene W. – Health issues – stomach

Jessica W. – Chronic back pain and migraines

Melinda C. – healing from debilitating migraines

Nelda U. – Ongoing health issues

LIFE SITUATIONS

Mickie H. – emotional support – upcoming anniversary of beloved husband’s death from COVID

Shipley family – loss of loved one

UPDATES

James P. – Has cellulitis in foot – Recovering from infection at home.

Judy B. – multiple health issues – situation is improving

Shawn B. – Fully recovered from COVID

Teresa B. – Fully recovered from COVID

Ayesha W – Recovered from COVID and back to work – Prayers for emotional support from the passing of her mother due to COVID.

UNSPOKEN REQUESTS

Christina A.

Donna M.

Tony C.

ONGOING PRAYERS

Those battling, recovering, or grieving losses from COVID

Frontline workers treating those with COVID

Those who need salvation (love/hope of God)

The Afghanistan situation

Those who serve our country (all first responders, government, and political parties for God’s guidance and direction to lead)

The Church (worldwide) – that we would return to the heart of the Father in word and deed.

Wesley’s Covenant Prayer

I am no longer my own, but Yours.
Put me to what You will, rank me with whom You will.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by You or laid aside for You.
Exalted for You or brought low for You.

Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and whole-heartedly yield all things to Your pleasure and disposal.

And now, O Glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
You are mine, and I am Yours.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
Let it be ratified in heaven.

Amen.