‘So You Love a Prodigal’

“So You Love a Prodigal: What You Can’t Do, What You Can Do, Why You Can’t Quit” by Rita Aiken MoritProdigal

I’m only one-third of the way through Rita Aiken Moritz’s “So You Love a Prodigal” and I’m anxious to consume every word. I can already tell Rita’s transparency about her own pain, the lessons she’s learned along the way and a consistent thread of biblical truths make the book a “must read” for anyone who has experienced, is experiencing or will experience a broken heart.

Before I begin reading a book I typically flip through all the chapter headers and skim the subheads, sidebars, pull-out quotes, etc. My skimming of this book indicates I will learn and grow from every chapter. The chapter “Who’s to Blame?” reminds us that the choices a prodigal makes is not our fault but is related to the condition of his or her own heart.

Several chapters deal with practical ways to and not to respond “when the roof falls in.”

And the chapter where Robert Smith Jr., beloved preacher and the Charles T. Carter Baptist Chair of Divinity at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, shares how God moved him to forgiveness of the man who killed his son — there are no words to do it justice. Just be ready for God to move as you read.

—Jennifer Davis Rash

 

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Jen Jen and Jay Jay’s year in review with a few seasonal selfies

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Just for fun — Jen Jen and Jay Jay — February 2016 through February 2017

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IMB’s Platt apologizes to Southern Baptists

Read story under Latest News at www.thealabamabaptist.org

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David Platt, IMB president, speaks with Will Hall, editor of Louisiana’s Baptist Message, after giving a report to Baptist editors in Ontario, California, Feb. 15. (BP photo)

 

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Is the team better with or without you?

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I’ve always been taught to leave a place better than I found it. While this well-known saying most often refers to a physical location, it also can play out in relationships and team experiences.

Am I pulling my weight on the team? Is the team better because I’m a part of it? Am I willing to help others when they need extra assistance?

Do I make a positive difference in another person’s day? Or are my attitude, actions and apathy bringing others down?

Super slow

Consider Person A who preceded me in an internship role when I was in my early 20s.

I was confused why she had not made any progress on our assigned project. I even wondered if she had actually worked at all when the supervisor told me after my second day on the job that I had accomplished more in two days than she had done in weeks.

Super speedy

A few years later I met Person B who was super speedy and ran circles around the rest of us on the team but 9 out of 10 things she did had to be redone. She was fast but she had poor results when it came to quality of work. She ended up costing the rest of us time having to go behind her to correct her mistakes.

Super lazy

And then there was Person C who spent more energy trying to avoid doing the job he was hired to do than it would have taken to just do the job. I’m still perplexed how he slept at night knowing the extra weight he caused us to carry because he wasn’t doing his part. And it wasn’t only during the time he was on the team but his dishonest and sloppy job affected various parts of the work for years to come.

You might have guessed that my patience wears a bit thin when it comes to purposeful dishonesty, sloppiness and slacking — in any situation.

But I’ve also learned that while some people know exactly what they are doing and purposefully mistreat the team or relationship, it is not the case with everyone. Sometimes there is a deeper concern at play. It might be a health issue or an emotional problem. The person could be overwhelmed with a personal crisis.

It could be as simple as lack of training, poor communication or negligence on the part of the team leader in establishing clear expectations. And sometimes people merely are promoted beyond their strengths — the Peter Principle, a concept made famous by the late Canadian researcher Laurence J. Peter who wrote a book about it in 1969.

If we discover that any of the above scenarios have occurred, then we make the place better than we found it immediately by owning up to what is happening.

Team leaders: lead

Team leaders, slow down long enough to know your team members and understand their struggles, their situations and their needs. Your job is to empower them to do their jobs. You are responsible to provide the training and resources they need. Create an environment that allows for achievement, confidence and security.

If you recruited them for your team, then protect them while also pushing them.

Team members: step up

Team members, take responsibility for yourselves. Be willing to ask for help, seek proper medical or psychological attention and figure out what you need to do to be a cooperative and contributing team member.

Everyone on the team can be part of the solution. Along with determining to be the best you God has created you to be, encourage and challenge those around you to do the same.

Why waste your time — and that of everyone around you — being part of something if you aren’t willing to contribute toward making it the best it can be?

—Jennifer Davis Rash

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Evaluating my faith, obedience

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My friend had to cut our phone conversation short because she had to “cram” for her Bible study class coming up that night.

“I know this isn’t the way I’m supposed to be studying the Bible,” she said. “The study I am in is designed so that we read a little each day building up to time for the class, but this is just where I am right now.”

I assured her she likely wasn’t alone, that others in the class are probably doing the same thing. I’ve been there before myself.

Committing to a weekly Bible study with built-in accountability sounds great when you sign up, but then you actually have to follow through with the plan. That’s when life seems to always get in the way.

Simplifying efforts

Finding time to read and quietly meditate on Scripture will be an eternal battle I fight.

But I’ve found the most success by simplifying my daily Bible reading to a specific chapter or section of a chapter, spending time meditating on the words and listening to God rather than trying to accomplish too much too fast.

For the past few years I’ve followed a plan that has been featured in previous issues of The Alabama Baptist (TAB) — D-Life (www.livethedlife.com).

True discipleship

Once I grasped the idea of truly living a life of discipleship, I was freed from the temptation to read and study solely to answer the questions in the study book or to see how quickly I could read through the Bible each year.

TAB will feature a variety of articles on discipleship and processes that are working for congregations around the state in each of the January issues.

The start of a new year provides a great time to hit the reset button on all things, especially our Scripture reading methods.

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And I couldn’t help but get a head start thinking about the importance of prioritizing our time in the Word as another friend shared with me recently about a sermon series she has been meditating on.

It deals with how we as believers tend to have spiritual amnesia and must stay in the Word daily in order to remember God’s truths and not stray from His path.

I had never heard it described that way but it makes total sense. No matter how simple the command “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength … and love your neighbor as yourself,” we still can’t seem to remember all the parts of it.

Staying focused

We are so easily distracted, exhausted, tempted and disillusioned. And when we return to the Word completely, openly and repentantly, it is obvious, so very obvious.

Yet one day away from the Lord takes our eyes off Him even if just for a moment; a week away moves our whole being away from Him.

Weeks can easily turn into months and months into years and then the spiritual amnesia moves to a critical level.

Trust, faith, obedience

We are called to trust, have faith and follow the Lord in obedience, but without including Him in every part of us and prioritizing focused time with Him, how will we grow in our faith? How will we become more like Him?

His ways are certainly not our ways, as Scripture says, but we are called to trust and follow even when we don’t understand.

My life group leader at church challenged our class in mid-December in the area of faithful obedience. He asked us to ask ourselves:

“Am I living a life of faithful obedience that will bring blessings to my life and those near me? Or do I think I know better?”

—Jennifer Davis Rash

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Could too much ‘church’ actually hurt believers’ spiritual growth?

The concept intrigued me — worship, Sunday School, discipleship and service. Those were the only four commitments my seminary buddy said he was requesting of the members of the congregation he served as pastor.

He cut out all extracurricular activities. He urged the members to move away from the once-pushed plan to build a recreational facility. And he asked the ministers on staff to eliminate any unnecessary meetings. too-much-church

He wants the congregation and staff members to dedicate themselves to growing in Christ and being salt and light in the community, not being busy at church.

If church members are so busy doing church activities, then they aren’t out in the community, he said. And if they are exhausted from all the church obligations, then they won’t have much energy left for their own spiritual growth, much less sharing with nonbelievers.

Overwhelmed with life

I thought more about what my friend was attempting to do in his church and remembered a strong Christian family I learned about who pulled away from church recently solely because of being overwhelmed with life. Church — which had been a major focus of this family’s life for years — had diminished into one more distressful obligation riddled with guilt for not doing enough. I’m sure no one actually forced these feelings on the mother and father, but it was certainly how they were feeling and it influenced their decision to pull their family out of the church.

Many are reaching out to the family, urging them to return and sharing concerns of how being out of church is not the answer. But I’m not sure anyone is finding a way for them to simply come worship without feelings of unrealistic expectations.

Calm instead of bustling?

What if our experience in church was truly a Sabbath experience of complete and full worship of the one true living God rather than a schedule of bustling activities where we zip into the parking lot still getting ready, run into the church service five or 10 minutes late, then rush to our Sunday School (or life group) class while catching up with friends along the way?

What if we knew our time attending church services each week would be energizing and filling but not hectic? What if we could truly clear our minds, calm our hearts and still our souls so we could hear from God in those moments and give sacrificially through our complete worship? What if we could leave our church services ready to face the world again?

Responsibility to be prepared

Of course, it is our responsibility as individual Christians to be prepared for worship and not the church staff’s issue. We have to be disciplined enough to spend time in the Word throughout the week so our hearts are prepared for the corporate worship service. And we have to be disciplined enough to guard our schedules appropriately to prevent the chaos that sometimes revolves around church time.

But still I wonder if our church leaders could do more to help members see the importance of being still (Ps. 46:10). If there are constant requests to sign up for endless activities at church, then members will feel obligated and sometimes even pressured to participate, which adds one more thing to the schedule.

Rested and revived

While there are certainly special events we would not want to give up for various reasons, it would be an interesting exercise to make note of how many requests are made of us on any given Sunday morning. Do we feel rested and revived in the Lord when coming to church or do we feel overwhelmed?

I would venture to say it is somewhat seasonal based on individuals and what is happening in their lives. Sometimes we are energized by all the activity; sometimes it discourages us.

Maybe we could find a way to alternate roles based on our seasons. When we are on top of things and feeling empowered we could serve more, and when life is difficult to balance we could be given a guilt-free sabbatical from our church roles — but not attendance.

—Jennifer Davis Rash

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Polishing the rough spots

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The distance and coldness slapped me in the face. I knew my friend had a lot on her mind so I didn’t worry about it — at first.

When it happened again, I asked if she was OK because she seemed upset about something. She said she was and didn’t offer any explanation.

After a few days of the same experience, I investigated because she obviously wasn’t OK. I thought back to what might have happened and realized I was what happened.

In a pressure-filled, deadline-crunched, sleep-deprived moment, I had barked at her about a project we were both working on. In the moment, I didn’t realize I had been hurtful.

My words were not meant to target her. I was actually frustrated with myself because I had not prepared as thoroughly as I thought I had.

Rebuilding trust

As soon as my aha moment came, I ran to my friend to apologize. She appreciated the acknowledgement and eventually warmed up to me — but it wasn’t immediate. She kept me at a slight distance for months.

It hurts me deeply when I hurt another person and yet I’m extremely capable of doing it.

I don’t tend to panic nor react frantically in tense situations. I’m the person who stays calm, assesses every side of the situation and determines the plan of action. But with this calmness under pressure comes a laser focus and sharp directness that can easily stomp on another’s feelings.

While I’m continuously working to improve in this area, I’ve also learned to show others grace when the situation is reversed. I try to give them the benefit of the doubt that they aren’t targeting me, that they are merely under a lot of pressure at the moment.

Many friends have modeled that same grace for me through the years.

Reading the right cues

In fact, another friend of mine and I had a rough season once when we were misreading each other’s emotions as being upset with the other. Once we realized what we were doing, we made a pact that we would always tell the other if something was wrong in our relationship rather than forcing each other to guess.

The experience was so freeing that I challenged myself to move quickly to resolve any conflict that might arise in all my relationships.

My goal is to stop myself the second I realize I’m being unfair or hurtful, take responsibility and apologize, then regroup in a way to have a calm and mutually respectful conversation. I’m learning to truly validate the other person’s feelings and decipher the facts of the situation while trying to avoid emotional responses. I’m also learning I don’t have to always be right — yes, that might have been the hardest one for me to swallow.

When I’m on the other side, I’m trying to calmly alert the person right away that what he or she did or said was hurtful to me. From there, my goal is to be kind, forgive and not leave any awkward feelings between us. It is really hard to tell another person when he or she has hurt or frustrated you, so I’m also working hard to not react defensively when someone is bold enough to share.

Worth all the effort

Some days merely attempting to live in relationship with the vast number of people in our lives can stretch our abilities, but I’ll be the first to say it is worth all the effort. I can’t imagine my life without all the amazing people who make it so rich, joyful and fulfilling. I’m just thankful they choose to love me despite my many shortcomings.

—By Jennifer Davis Rash

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