Friday, August 27, 2010

Pig Pens and Penguins...The Prodigals in Our Prayers

In the Book of Luke in the New Testament is a familiar parable told by Christ, of the Prodigal Son.  I will paraphrase it here for you;  well sort of "modern-day"  the story...

A father had two sons.  The younger son was anxious to move on, leave his father's house and discover the world on his own.  Not only did he want to leave his father's field and business, but it seemed he just wanted to cut all ties,  leave a lifestyle and certain guidelines he was taught.  He thought the world had so much more to offer him.  He asked his father for his share of the inheritance before it was even a proper time to bestow it upon him.  Yet, his father was generous with his son, knowing he was now old enough to make his own decisions.  He loved him and although he was saddened by his choices, he let him go. 

Not long after the transactions took place, the son packed his things and headed off to a foreign land where he partied wild and hard, wasting his father's hard earned money.  After a while, there was a severe recession in this foreign land and the son began  to struggle.  He couldn't even afford food and shelter for himself.   The son found himself having to find work and all he could find was on a farm where he had to feed the pigs and clean their stalls.  This was a low point in this young man's  life.  He was so hungry, even the  food for the pigs  looked good,  yet no one even offered  that to him.

 I am sure he was filled with regret but even still,  lonliness.  Was pride an issue here?  Oh I am sure he had many debates in his head of  whether or not he could ever face his family again and the "I told you so's" he thought awaited him if he returned. 

In desperation,  the son's  thoughts turned to his  father's servants. " They were at least enjoying enough bread to keep their bellies full and here I am about to starve to death. I will go back to my Father's house and ask to be one of his servants; then at least I will be able to have food."   He was going to have to swallow his pride if he wanted to have a life.  He would plead to his father for mercy, telling him he was sorry, that he was no longer worthy to be his son and beg for favor to become his servant.
So, he packed what earthly belongings he had left, and headed back towards home,  ready to surrender his pride and  arrogance and recognize that what he learned and the love he had felt was truly worth more than all the lies the world offered up to him.  He had finally gained wisdom and listened intently to his inner voice, that Love that he was trained up on. He was hoping he could  just have a tidbit of that love back.  Would it be too late? 

His Father was out and about and saw something out of the corner of his eye, someone approaching that walked with such a familiar gait.  "Could this possibly be my long lost son?"  He dropped what he was doing and took of running with a  fury towards this person, his heart filled with more love and longing,  more so  than the pain in his arthritic knees, for he had thought his son was dead.  When he approached his son, he grabbed him and smothered him with kisses and hugs.

This long lost son was in awe of his father. He tried to hold his dad  back for he was also embarrassed by the smells that lingered of his trials and travels, of pigpens and sweat on the only clothes he now owned.  "Dad. I screwed up; I know how much I have disappointed you and God too.  Can I just work here as one of your servants?" 

But the Dad would have no part of that silly request.  He quickly made arrangements for a huge party, gathered the water for his son to enjoy a nice bath, got him some new clothes and gladly welcomed him back;  accepted,  refreshed and forgiven.  Together the family celebrated the Prodigal son who "was once lost but now is  found."  (Luke 15:32).

If we are at all familiar with this story, we know it is a picture of Jesus, welcoming back his wayward sons, those who have known the Love of the Father at one time, but have chosen a different path only to find it leads to emptiness, anger, disappointments, frustrations and lonliness.

Some of us still have sons or daughters who are making choices outside the Word of God.  As parents, we continually hold them up to the Lord in prayer.  When my second son was born, the day after Christmas, I chose to decorate his room in a "penguin" theme.  Since then, penguins have become even more popular, starring in their own documentaries and Disney movies.  They seem to be very popular this week on  videos.

" Happy Feet"  I love this movie!
If I can load these two videos, I couldn't load these videos so I am giving you the URL's and trusting you will watch to connect the dots here...These video clips were my inspiration to write this piece, thinking about my own "prodigal son", Corey, the Christmas penguin baby." 

please click and watch...

This little guy is out in the mean world, going to be lunch for some hungry Orca's.  He is swimming and paddling with all his might.  Right in front of him is a boat filled with friendly faces rooting him on.  They can't jump in after him, they can only watch and pray.  Finally the little guy finds a safe place, and jumps into the boat  where he is accepted and now protected from sure death.  A Prodigal Penguin...I bet Mom and Dad are wondering where he is, but it sure looks like his "training" kicked in! 

As Christian parents, we listen to God's Word from Proverbs 22:6  which tells us to

"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." 

Always  remembering our adult children are just that...adults,  free to make their own choices whether we like some of their choices or not is often difficult when they still live at home.   We just keep loving them and praying for them.   (we were the same way, right?) 

Eventually, some fly away remaining in grace and do well, some leave to experiment with new ideas and philosophies, some even become democrats..(lol)...and  hopefully some return to the teachings of their youth.  For those that return, God has a special outing planned for them, one they just could not attain on their own.  Secure once again in grace, buckled in with a promise, and gliding on His Spirit through life, God will steer them in the right direction; our ever present prayers giving lift to our hopes.  We as parents may not have as much patience, but God quietly waits for the return of His own wayward sons; for He longs  be the wind beneath their wings, soaring to heights unimaginable.

please click and watch.

Tell me about your own Prodigal.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lessons from my Garden

My Sunflowers are tall and strong, the first bloom opening up fully on Sunday.  The seeds are from the head of last years biggest sunflower, which I saved to cultivate for a purpose.  Two years ago, I had gazed out my kitchen window on a quiet Sunday afternoon and admired my sunflowers, which inspired me to write a poem remembering Tim and using a sunflower anaolgy.  Several friends suggested I send them their own "Timmy" sunflower seeds to plant in their  gardens.  I cannot express how much this blessed me!  So, when Spring came around, I designed a little envelope and dropped 26 seeds (one for each year of his life) into it.  Some were mailed as far away as Boston, some were hand given. 

This morning in my devotional time, I am rereading "31 Days of Praise" by Ruth Myers.  It is so great to refresh my mind on the importance of praise and worship and how much that needs to be a part of my life daily...not just at church on Sunday.  It is especially important during tough and challenging times.  Like my previous post, motivation is important...but if the attitude is totally out of whack...motivation will be non-existant.  I came across a verse that reminded me this morning of my blooming sunflower.

Hebrews 1: 3A (NIV)  The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. 

The center of the Sunflower is like our Heavenly Father and his Radiance...His like all the golden petals surrounding and spreading out to define the beauty of the flower...God's  Creation.  It rocks so gently in the breeze yet stands firm like a strong tower...gazing in on me through the window of my life I leave open to His Grace.  

In other scripture I read this morning, something else popped up that I would like to share here.  This version from the NAS of Luke 1:78-79

Because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace."

I noticed right away that "Sunrise" was capitilized in my Bible.  The writer here is referring to Christ as the Sunrise of each new day of  our life, a reminder to me as well of His Grace renewed each morning.

Speaking of "guiding our feet",  there existed for may months, a  bad leak in the spicket of my outdoor fawcett.   It sprays water everywhere, but worse, it never shut off completely and always was leaving a watery film which grew green algae across my patio.  I almost slipped many times trying to navigate around it while outside doing yardwork.  Also, where  it was pooling was making one area of the lawn a mushy mess. 

When things in our lives don't get tended to, things that are bothersome, wasteful, sometimes could be harmful physically and may even cause others danger,  stepping over the problem is not a good thing.  I know we are all guilty of this one.  What a relief though when it is finally taken care of.  Things have been handed over to the Expert to fix and already there is an improvement in my walk...I am not afraid I am going to slip because the danger zone is drying up!   Sometimes it may just take some concentrated prayer and surrender, other times we may have to call on others for help.  If your path is looking a little dangerous lately,  step back and take a look at what needs cleaning up or fixed.  God will hold the flashlight right on it if you ask Him. 

Because I didn't want to stand by that spraying spickett and get soaked,  I quickly would run away after turning on the hose.  I was always missing something...something I discovered today.  Below the hose is a pile of stood out very evident today as I lingered by the fawcett, admiring the shiny new nozzle

 Isn't this cool!  A rock shaped like a heart! 

Psalm 27:5a...

For in the day of trouble

he will keep me safe in his dwelling;

he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle

and set me high upon a rock.
Psalm 71:3  
Be my rock of refuge,

to which I can always go;

give the command to save me,

for you are my rock and my fortress.

I hope your garden is full of inspiration today.   Take a careful look at the ground, at the leaves, at the petals, at all the intricate designs,  hear the whirring of a hummingbird, the buzzing of a Japanese beetle, (which seem to be everywhere this year) watch the organized labor of the ant, the cooing of a dove, You will see God...and maybe He will find your heart, right there in the garden! 

If you are wanting some "Timmy" sunflower seeds,  I still have plenty to be planted.  Some of you  will plant, some will water and some will cultivate.  Who will attend to the Harvest?    Send me a comment, I will be happy to mail you a packet.  What's growing in your garden? 

Sunflower Lives

Out my kitchen window, I planted to see,

My giant sunflowers, swaying now, softly.

Planted behind the marigold plot,

Up they arose along the fence, a great spot.

Harvesting seeds from last year's crop,

The dried, crusty bloom, many seeds I did drop.

A few to the birds and I gathered all the rest

To plant this year; it was sort of a test.

And soon they emerged, up and up with speed

Staked, planted firm against their own weight and need.

The bees gather round more than before,

I spotted a mantis, praying for more.

And in my observation, today God speaks,

As I stood by the window thinking on summer weeks.

The first and the largest now hangs its head in grace,

For it has served its purpose, now the seeds take its place.

The others stand round with multi-blooms on stock

At watch over the fence, no hesitant balk.

Knowing they serve us with whimsy and purpose

But their days are numbered; preparing to leave us.

I think of my son, and his shining short season,

So like this sunflower, deliberate with reason

Planted and nurtured to leave memory seeds.

Continuing to sew for as long God sees.

And my hope is that one will grow in your yard.

A bright yellow flower to always stand guard.

A reminder of seasons, some short and some long,

But a memory of grace told in a sunflower song.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

How Are You Feeling?

We were playing a simple word game in class, sort of a Wheel of Fortune/Hangman game.

She knew the answer. She was insistent, indignant, demanding.

She knew the answer and she wildly waved her hand and shouted out,  "I know it...I know it!"

It was not her turn.

She wanted so bad to win.

She sulked in disappointment. She whimpered in discontent. She did not want to abide by the rules.

She lost that round; someone else answered before her. She was now determined to win. She now knew she could not make her own rules.

When her turn came, she answered correctly. She knew the answer and she was playing by the rules.

After her win, her shoulders slumped and she confessed,

"It doesn't feel as good as I thought it would."

(A true story from my summer classroom experiences).

Sometimes people want to make up their own rules in life, bypass what the world says is acceptable. People cheat, they lie, and they butt in line. They take what isn't theirs, they manipulate the system, they over indulge themselves. It's funny how our society works.  We marginalize and institutionalize some and others just get more publicity which feeds are media explosion.  Eventually, it all  catches up,  for we are all mortal. Hopefully,  a chance for redemtion comes their way. 

Others play by the rules. They do everything right. The bank account is in order; the white picket fence has fresh paint; healthy looking, happy people in their SUV’s. They volunteer and donate. The kids are well adjusted, popular in school, yet something just does not satisfy. It just doesn't feel as good as they thought it would. Hopefully, a chance for redemtion comes their way.

I owned a BMW for a little while. Vanity…vanity…The front end was soon wrecked by another driver. It was stolen and taken on a long joy ride by an aquaintenance. The transmission blew up, and then after the fire I had to give it up anyway. It is very evident that God had no part in that decision when I went car shopping that day. Because I am His child though, there was a lesson to be learned. 

God is our creator and wants us to have a close relationship with him, whether we are a rule follower or a rule breaker. The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans, “we have all sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). Kng Solomon in his writings talks about his own futility in life. This was a man who had everything a person could desire.

"Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun." (Eccl 2:11).

This anxiousness, this longing will continue in the person who seeks out the instant gratification, the pleasure of the world, and the need to please and compete with others around us. Our expectations will never be completely met and we will possess that unfulfilled and unsatisfactory feeling. Their may be happiness for "a time" but eventually everyone will have to face their eternal destiny.

God wants us always to focus on the eternal, in all the things we do. Colossians 3:23 states Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” Also in Ephesians 6:7 Paul writes, “serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men.

I challenge you to take on your next competition, your next work project, your next challenge in life with this attitude. Check your motivation. May all you do in this life be for God’s Glory. I am willing to bet, you just might be saying, “Wow, this feels good!”