Stone Butterfly Blog

Hearts on a prodigal journey
November 3rd, 2012 by Dan (the author)

Welcome to the Stone Butterfly Blog

Hope is a butterfly,

Fear is a stone,

As the father waits

For the son to come home.

The Stone Butterfly Blog is a resource for those on the prodigal journey. There will be thoughts and discussions; ideas and reflections. Here is a place of hopes and fears; of joyous victories and of tearful failures. That is the life of addiction and perilous wanderings. That is the life some of us are bound to share with the ones we love. It is journey we can’t escape because love compels us to travel this road. May this place be an encouragement along the rocky path and may your days of hope, one day, take wing like a butterfly!

May 3rd, 2014 by Dan (the author)

When Disapproval Runs Backward



I remember being told how important it was for our children to sense our approval. Kids love to be affirmed, they said. Kids need encouragement, they said. So, we approved of everything that was remotely approvable. Then the kids grew up and, guess what? Now, we’re finding out that they don’t approve of US. I should have seen it coming, I guess, but I didn’t. It didn’t ever occur to me that after being so careful and diligent to create for our kids a childhood that they could look back on fondly, that they would find fault and that we would sense their disapproval. Worse, that they would use their experience, or interpretation of their experience, as a reason for their unhappiness or poor choices.

Just a warning here: parents are often a convenient scapegoat; a reason for negative circumstances. It is true, of course, that a person’s upbringing can be cause for difficulty later in life. It is also true, though, that adult children can create in their memory a justification for their present unhappiness. Sometimes they are living out effects that need causes, and their family of origin is a handy target for blame. Nevertheless, it is painful to feel the disapproval of one’s children.

February 16th, 2014 by Dan (the author)

When You Run Out of Words

At the beginning of this year I made some promises concerning my relationship with my son. I determined that I would write him a letter at least once a week. I did it for a couple of weeks but have been finding it challenging to continue. I just don’t have the words. I don’t know what to say that I haven’t said a hundred times before.

My thinking was that this year, 2014, could be different. That maybe he could set his face toward a new year and not look back at the pain and pointlessness of the past. I thought, perhaps, I could do the same. I have to confess, though, I can’t seem to kindle the hope that he is moving forward. Our contact has been very spotty and from what I have been able to glean from distant connections doesn’t look hopeful — same friends and same choices. As far as I know.

I was encouraged a bit today. Here is a link to an interview with Abraham Piper (John Piper’s son) who was a prodigal. I’ll take all the encouragement I can get so when I read the story of a son that comes home, I am encouraged.

January 10th, 2014 by Dan (the author)

Seeds in the Prodigal Heart

Love is like a seed planted by a gardener. Sometimes it sprouts, healing as it grows. But the prodigal heart may be choked with weeds or filled with stones. The Gardener stands ready to cultivate it, but waits for the prodigal to yield. Meanwhile, those who watch from afar live in fear, knowing not every wanderer makes it home. 

January 9th, 2014 by Dan (the author)

Collateral Damage

The prodigal journey may seem like a lonely road traveled by a solitary wayward son, but it rarely is. There are those who love him who are invariably swept along in the wake of his wandering. Parents, of course, bear the agony of doubt and the despair of helplessness. But there are the brothers and sisters who also bear a burden—collateral damage. They, too, suffer the disappointments. They are the quietly turning wheels that need no grease. (From Chapter 8 – “Uniqueness.”)

March 7th, 2013 by Dan (the author)

From the Book

Chapter 7: Regret

Be not like him who sits by his fireside and watches the fire go out, then blows vainly upon the dead ashes. Do not give up hope or yield to despair because of that which is past, for to bewail the irretrievable is the worst of human frailties. ~Kahlil Gibran

What is done is done and that which was not done must remain so. Therein is the dark soul of regret. Would that it were easy to just let go of it, set it adrift, put it behind me…forget. Alas, it is no simple matter to let go of regret. That which was undone remains, and that which was done is done, but regret means that it is never finished.

It’s a useless emotion, really; still it is powerful because there is no remedy. It is the best case when the consequences of failure and miscalculation only impact us. It is mournful when our children must learn to live in spite of them.

But, what exactly is it that I regret? What, specifically, did I do or leave undone? Was I a drunkard? Was I unfaithful to my wife? A workaholic, never home? Was I cold and distant, absent and unapproachable? Perhaps, I was just dull and uninteresting, a half-man without admirable qualities. Maybe, I was too good; the bar was too high and unattainable. We should have gone camping more; had a family activity…we should have…

I can’t put my finger on it. I see the condition of Benjamin’s life and know I played a part in it. It was I who raised him so it must have been I that sowed the seed of despair and hopelessness. But when? How?

I used to be confident that I was doing the right thing and that my parenting was impeccable, or at least adequate. As the years pass, though, I become less and less certain that what I did was right. Nobody warned me that the curse of age might well be self-doubt, and the burden of time, perplexity.

Thinking back, I remember pulpit teachings and radio broadcasts; books and the family conferences. They all seemed to suggest that a parent needed only to observe some time-tested methodology and the result would surely be a godly family and problem-free kids. Go to church. Read the Bible. Pray—with and for your children; pray as a family; be firm; be clear; be consistent; dare to discipline, and all would be well. “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

I believed all that, which is probably why I wasn’t terrified of having children. Maybe that was a good thing. Had I known that children didn’t “by instinct” do what was in all the books about Christian parenting, I may have rejected the idea of having children at all. Had I known that sometimes kids make their own choices no matter how much a parent pours into them I may have been paralyzed with fear. Had I known how much nature rages against nurture…had I known that circumstances in the world can knock the props out from under a family, maybe I would have…

What? Would I have done anything different? Would I have declined parenthood and raised golden retrievers or chickens?


The fact is all that instruction wasn’t wasted. There was truth in it. But life doesn’t abide by a strict code of cause-and-effect. There’s more to it than dropping in the correct change and receiving the desired product. There are extenuating circumstances, unexpected influences, and the “series of unfortunate events.”

Yes, I have regrets. They are irritating and prickly like a speck of dust in my eye that won’t wash out, or an invisible sliver in my skin that I can’t see to remove. I wish I could go back and do more of whatever it was that was good, and less of whatever it was that was bad. But there it is: I would go back…because Benjamin is important to me. I would set things right if I could.

Even God had regrets. In the days of Noah He said, “I am sorry that I have made them.” Then he gave instructions to Noah to build an ark so that all would not be lost when God cleansed the earth of the horror that had overtaken His prodigal race. The story of Noah is the story of a flood of divine despair, but it is also the story of unrelenting love. The human race was important to the Father as my children are important to me. The ark was God’s refusal to give up. Centuries later He will say through the prophet Jeremiah the words that were undoubtedly in His heart as he agonized over the coming cataclysm: For I know the plans I have for you…They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

And the ark was His willingness to go back, not because of what He had done wrong (He is God, after all) but because He had the heart of a father—The Father. Perhaps that is where regret comes from: intense and unquenchable dreams for the future of the ones we love. Perhaps that is why dads all over the world cannot give up and would gladly go back if they could. Perhaps when His heart was broken the Heavenly Father flung the pieces out upon humanity where they, like seeds, sprang up in the souls of men.

Perhaps Kibran was wrong. Maybe Thoreau had it right when he said, “To regret deeply is to live afresh.” It may be that I don’t need to know what I did wrong. As I have often pointed out to others, including my children, “you can’t start from where you were. You can only start from where you are.” Regret looks back. Better that I should look forward. “Train up a child,” the scripture says, “and when he is old he will not depart from it.” In the passage of time may still be a future and a hope.

December 8th, 2012 by Dan (the author)

Don’t Believe It


OK, let’s make this quick and dirty: DON’T BELIEVE IT.

If your prodigal has addiction issues, and many (maybe most) do, then truth is elusive — slippery. It’s a rare commodity. Don’t be the one that discovers, months and money down the road, that your love has made you a victim.

You will want to trust your child/friend/loved one, but that’s how you get to be an enabler. It’s your love that makes you vulnerable as you try to help and encourage. If you must be helpful, remember the words of Ronald Reagan as he entered into negotiations with the USSR:

Trust, but verify.

That’s the deal. Tell your loved one, if you want my help, then prove to me that you’re worthy of it. Nobody gets a free pass just because they’re loved.

And you, dear reader, aren’t immune to being used. Remember, addiction is no respecter of persons. Not you, Mom. Or you, Dad. Or even you, sibling or friend. Addiction respects nobody and knows nothing of integrity.

Trust me…

December 7th, 2012 by Dan (the author)

Military and Prescription Drugs

army_pills-aPart of our prodigal journey has included walking with our son through the labyrinth of the Veterans Administration health care system. I will never forget a meeting with him several years ago at a local park. Jarringly, the park at which I had suggested we meet was the site of a soldier suicide a few months earlier. I didn’t know that or I would have suggested another place.

Caleb was working through yet another iteration of PTSD and substance issues and we met to try to formulate yet another plan for dealing with it. As we nibbled on our Taco Bell burritos, he opened his backpack and drew out a zip-loc bag filled with prescription bottles and removed one for his scheduled dose.

“Are those all yours?” I asked.

“Uh, huh.”

I asked to see them. Sure enough, bottle after bottle, all prescribed by the VA. Some were vitamins, I’ll admit, but others were antidepressants, anti-anxiety, anti-psychotic meds and still others were for sleep and digestive issues—27 bottles in all.

“Does anyone have any idea what these do when they’re all mixed together?” I asked. Of course, I knew the answer: No. Nobody knows. Although, we can guess that at least a few times they result in suicide. One medication, Seroquel, an anti-psychotic drug that was distributed in six month supply bottles to deploying troops, was used as a sleep aid. A possible side-effect? Thoughts of suicide (link to the story). And Seroquel is not the only medication  prescribed to soldiers with that warning on the label. Is there a connection with what Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta called the suicide “epidemic” among soldiers?

Although Seroquel was targeted in a lawsuit earlier this year and was eventually removed from the approved list of meds for soldiers in the field and at home, my concern still remains. Why? Twenty-seven bottles. One vet had been prescribed 27 medications. The potential interactions are unpredictable.

The battle for our sons and daughters is fought on many fronts. This is one.


November 6th, 2012 by Dan (the author)

Jesus told them this story…

A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, “I want my share of your estate now, instead of waiting until you die.” So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.

A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and took a trip to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money on wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him to feed his pigs. The boy became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.

When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, “At home even the hired men have food enough to spare, and here I am,


dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired man.'”

So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long distance away, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.”

But his father said to the servants, “Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger, and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening in the pen. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.”
~Luke 15: 11-24 (NLT)

November 5th, 2012 by Dan (the author)

Family Stress

The cycle continues and we have to figure out what to believe again. He has left yet another “program.” This time it was a community of faith that apparently had expectations for his participation–imagine that. The result is that he is no longer there, and as always, we’re left to try to discern whether it is he or the community at fault. So, now he is going to look for another program–how hard, remains to be seen– and we have to wonder what is going to happen.

This is a common pattern: The butterfly moments when he enters a program, a living situation a new direction—the crash among the rocks when something happens and we’re back to square one. The stress on our hearts becomes unbearable, but bear we must because the love of Christ constrains us.

Meanwhile, we as a couple have to figure out how to talk about it. Should we believe him? Should we be understanding that it wasn’t a good fit? And if I have my doubts, should I say so, knowing that I will sound negative and discouraging? Better not to speak at all. Better to try to find a way to listen and just agree: “Uh-huh. Yeah. That might work…” When in my head the thoughts are screaming, “Here we go again! He quit again and it’s always THEIR fault. Now, we get dragged down then next alley wondering what is going to happen, having to take his word for it when his word has been less reliable as the years have drummed on!”

Stuff it. Don’t say anything. Try to keep silent.


And the all important communication in a marriage suddenly withers like a flower. Where conversation and sharing should be  nourishing the relationship in a difficult time, we feel the yawning gap between us as we try to tip-toe through the minefield of words and feelings. All while an adult child jerks the whole thing around by the heart. Jody has the option of tears to release the agony of doubt and disorientation. I find anger welling up inside me, a fire of frustration and weariness. Would that I could quench the flames with tears, but only anger seems to come.

Later, we get the text messages and phone calls with the explanations. There is relief that the channels are still open, although there are times I wish we could just go our separate ways and pray that some time in the future we’ll hear from him when the storm of addiction is safely passed.  Alas, love does not permit that. We’re family. We’re in this together come what may.

So, we pray. We pray alone and together. We pray with faithful friends who have committed themselves to love our son right alongside us. We rest in their counsel and let them talk us out of the valley. Nobody should walk the prodigal journey without friends—companions on the road.

This incident is a familiar stop on the trip. Another butterfly dead among the stones, but by the grace of God another will rise. Such is the prodigal journey.