Monday, September 9, 2013

If You Are A Prodigal

I slip off my sandals so I can feel the sun-warmed sand against my feet.

With a soft twisting motion and light pressure, the grains-of-time sift in between my toes and fill in around the imprint of each foot.

It's soul-tonic, to rest here with the murmur of birds fluttering and chirping in trees, water lapping gentle against the shore, and the visual beauty that a late summer evening bring.

Shimmering flecks of light are rendered out of focus, as they dance over the water to form what seems like a pathway to infinity.

The Hand-painted scene is breathtaking as sun and summer are sinking below the horizon.

I've been painting some too, in my home office, and it has been a life-upheaval.

I knew it would be.

It's my way, to minimize the scope of the project, so that I can even bear to take it on. Now, not wanting to drag it all back in, to the way it was, I'm stuck sifting through this collected slips of paper, books and the pieces of my life that I felt were important enough to tuck away.

I want a fresh start, a space where creativity can flow, where clutter doesn't stifle my mind.

This mess represents a bit of my emotional, spiritual and soul life, just tossed across the floor in the family room.

It's been a revisiting of the layers of my journey.

My redemption story.

My life letter.

And I'm reminded of what a rebel, what a prodigal I've been.

Those words sting.

That thing of being a rebel: one who resists authority.
That label of being a prodigal: one who was lost and wasteful.

Yeah. That's not how anyone wants to be remembered.

You've heard the story right?

The prodigal son.
The son that was lost.

The story is only recorded in the book of the Bible, written by Luke the doctor. The people who hung out at church in Jesus day, were murmuring about how He kept company with folks who had a bad reputation.

So the Master-Weaver of  Story, He tells this group, this group of religious people and messed up people,
....he tells three stories.

Stories of things lost.

A lost sheep.
A lost coin.
And a lost son.

The story of the lost son was shocking to this gathering, because the father in the story shows extreme grace, patience and wisdom in dealing with the son who wanted to figure life out for himself.

And don't we wish everyone had this Father?

Some of us just have to go our own way to figure out how to get back.

I've processed some of my path to self destruction and rebellion and what I know, is this: I wasn't always a rebel.

My mom would tell me how I was her timid, gentle, toe-headed sweetheart.

So there was pain that marked the journey away and there was pain that marked my journey back home.

After I had come to my senses and returned there are a few things that I found to be true.

Some people preferred it when I was a prodigal.

Because the rebels in the world, make the rest of the people, especially the ones who stayed home and followed the rules   ....well, ...we make them look better.

Quite frankly, some people don't think my returning should look like it does, in fact some still see me, as I was.

So what do you do with a prodigal returned?

In the story the Father threw a feast with the fattened calf and invited anyone who would come.

Not a goat or a lamb or a steak on the grill, but the whole darn calf.

The father wanted everyone to celebrate with him, that his lost son had come home.

I picture a long table with fresh laid linens, held down with large goblets of water with beads of sweat, steaming pottery bowls heaped high, wicks on candles lit all down the center, that cast a warm glow to the faces of those gathered to the feast, and happy music, with dancing and fine aged wine.

But there is someone in the story who wasn't happy about about the lost boys return.

It was the older son.
The elder brother.
The son that stayed home.

The son who looked good and quite frankly probably liked being an only child in his younger brothers absence.

I get this. I really do.

If the younger son was anything like me, he came home with all kinds of guilt and thinking he needed to work his way back into grace with his father. If the older son is anything like what I've seen, he stayed home and worked to be accepted by his father. The older son who stayed home, most likely thought he was better and more righteous than his brother who was so obviously a mess.

But we have a heavenly Father that you can not work to please.
We all have to meet Him at the foot of the cross.

The deal is,  we are all prodigals.

No one is "good enough."

We all fall short of the standard God has set, which is perfection, and that's why we all need Jesus.

When Jesus came to die for our sins, He sent out an invitation to  His banquet to celebrate and everyone is invited.

Don't miss in this story that the father went out and reasoned with the older son, to join them in celebrating the return of his brother. The father assured the older son of his love for him, but in the story we do not see that the older brother responds to the invitation.

It's the way of the Father to initiate relationship with us.

He is always searching the horizon for our return.
He is always meeting us right where we are to invite us.

In fact He left His throne in heaven to wear a crown of thorns on earth.

So the prodigal son comes to his senses, the table is full of people who responded to the invitation of the banquet, and it would all be a happy ending, except for the son who stayed home, kept all the rules and probably went to church on Sunday.

He  is outside and upset because he doesn't think certain people should be invited to the party.

He thinks that the party should look different. He wants to hang out with the ones who look like they have it all together, and not the ones who obviously don't.

One thing about having been the prodigal,  is that I know how much I need Jesus.

It's easier for those of us who know we are messed up, to admit it, sometimes.

And sometimes, the ones who stayed home, kept the rules, attended church, dressed a certain way, had a certain kind of education, worked a certain kind of jobs  - -well sometimes those nice people have a harder time realizing that they are a prodigal just like me.

In the Bible, only a few women are named in the linage of Christ. Of those listed  ...well they were some pretty colorful ladies, who had faith to believe that the Father loved them despite their past.

Tamar a widow, who was denied her legacy, dressed up as a prostitute to deceive her father-in-law, Rahab, mentioned twice to be the prostitute from Jerico, and Bethsheba who had the famous affair which effected an entire world.

And I don't think we get a glimpse of their back story to judge them, but to understand the grace of the Father who loved them.

We are all invited to a fresh start, to a clean slate.

We are invited to the table that God has set.

We all have to come to the table, broken, with understanding of our need for forgiveness from the Father who is gracious, patient and wise.

Jesus isn't interested in how many rules you broke, how many rules you have kept, your doctrine, or what you have done in the past.

He wants you to meet Him, on His terms, so that you can have the future He designed, just for you, before time began.

He is wanting us to join Him at the table.

There is one catch.

You have to accept His invitation.

Joining Ann Voskamp giving thanks.
Have you read her book 1000 Gifts?
Better yet, may we live it.

#1221 Sunset and lake and beauty all rolled into one heart-stopping picture perfect moment.
#1222 Youngest daughter calling and sharing a sweet word with me.
#1223 Beautiful full out rain. Rain that blesses and cleanses
#1224 Canned dill pickles done with JQ. Time to talk and work together. Sweet.
#1225 Puppies. Four of them in our house for three days.
                  And the grandkids had to come to play too.

* Table photo credit link
** Thank you to Amy @ A Moment Photography for putting her magic on my photo. I love you.

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© Rhonda Quaney