Friday, February 27, 2009

The Prodigal...Son?

It is not an uncommon experience for those of us who've grown up in the church to discover, as adults, that we've harbored misconceptions, prejudices and distortions about Christ, the Bible, or Christianity, from our childhood. These can be as comical as my mother singing, "Lead on, O Kinky Turtle" (Lead On, O King Eternal), or her thinking that "Gladly" was the name of a "cross-eyed bear" (Gladly the Cross I'd Bear). Other times we learn that our misunderstandings were doctrinally significant and require a major shift in our thinking.

One false impression which I carried into adulthood, which turns out to be rather innocuous, is that the word "prodigal" meant something like "returning from rebellion." Afterall, the story of The Prodigal Son was primarily about him rebelling, going away, then returning to his home. Though I knew he wasted his inheritance along the way, I never associated the word "prodigal" with his spending habits. So...imagine my consternation when I first heard suggested that the story should instead be called "The Prodigal Father." WHAT?! Oh, wait! The word actually means "lavish or extravagant expenditure."

In the story, who is it that manifests the greatest prodigality? Indeed, the son would have had no inheritance to blow if the father had not given it to him! The father knows his son will waste it. He knows he's rebellious. Yet, when the son asks, the father gives.

Then...when the son returns empty-handed, the father doesn't lecture him about personal responsibility and facing consequences. No "you-made-your-bed-now-lie-in-it" mentality here! He gives forgiveness freely and joyfully!

There is no sermon, no penance required, no hoops through which to jump to prove his sincerity...NO! Instead, contrary to all our instincts, the father gives deeply from his own resources to host an extravagant celebration!

As if all those expressions of generosity were not enough, he also gifts his son with all his familial rights, restoring him to sonship!  

All this generosity is scandalous!  What about reaping what you've sown?  What about justice?  What about proving yourself before you're restored?  What about blessings and curses?  Is this father foolish to extravagantly push all his resources toward this son who has wasted his earlier gifts in riotous living?  The older son certainly judged his father harshly for his prodigality.

The father is indeed the True Prodigal...the truly lavish spender! Imagine for a moment how re-naming that story might alter our viewpoint. The emphasis shifts from the foolishness of the wayward son to the generosity of the faithful father. This necessarily carries huge implications for the way I view my relationship with God the Father and then, in turn, should alter the way I parent my own children.

My tendency is to let them bear the full weight of the consequences from their sins...or at least to make them suffer a little...or to hold back full and free forgiveness and love until they prove they've really repented! Ah, how much I still need to be transformed by this simple story I've known all my life! How much I have to learn from our Prodigal God!

Meditate on that and rejoice with me in His generosity.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Little Things

Sunday evening as I updated my church family on my brother's condition and implored their continued prayers for him, I also gave thanks that all his organs are still working. After I said that, I wondered if it seemed to others that I was desperately grasping for a "silver lining" in the midst of the havoc that this cancer is wreaking on his body.

Truth is, I'm not grasping. As many of Jeffrey's physical abilities and strengths have waned, and as I see his body wasting away, I can't help but be aware of those bodily functions that are still doing what they're supposed to. Since his first diagnosis, he's had cancer in his liver, kidneys, lungs, and other organs, yet they are still doing their jobs. I'm not silly enough to believe that it will always be so, but FOR TODAY, his lungs work and I'm thankful. FOR TODAY, his kidneys work and I'm thankful. FOR TODAY, his pancreas works and I'm thankful. These "little things" are suddenly momentous.

I'm also thankful for the small miracles performed every day through modern medicine. Though they are mediated through doctors and science, the fact is, they are nevertheless a manifestation of God's unfailing grace toward humanity!

The most recent developments in Jeffrey's situation:
He experienced his first broken bone this week - a rib. This is probably the first of many to come because the cancer is all through his skeleton. His reaction: "I'm glad it's only a broken rib." Because it was causing difficulty with his breathing, he was afraid his lungs were filling with fluid, making the diagnosis of a broken bone a welcome one.

Yesterday he ended up in the hospital for a few hours because he couldn't open his eyes or move his head without throwing up (imagine heaving with a broken rib). He was extremely dizzy and the one time he attempted to stand, he "collapsed" in Dawnn's arms. He couldn't eat or drink even a sip of water without losing it. At the hospital, they hydrated him intravenously and were able to subdue both the vertigo and the nausea. Everyone's fear was that the cancer had begun to invade the brain, so the docs did a scan...FOR TODAY, his brain is clear and we're all thankful!

My dad and my brother, Richard, lifted him into the van and headed for home about 8pm last night. By midnight he was able to eat, and keep down, a carton of yogurt.

If you would, keep him in your prayers. Also remember his wife, who labors tirelessly and uncomplainingly by his side day after day and night after night, while still raising 3 little ones. Pray for his girl, Cierra, who is very aware of Daddy's sickness and who faces a little boy at school every day who laughs cause her daddy has cancer.

I know these posts about Jeffrey are a bit of a downer, and I know it's a lot bigger deal to me than to any of you, but in some small way it helps me to tell what's going on and to know that many of you care enough to pray.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

From Our VBS Curriculum

Christ has come, the Light of the World.

Long ages may yet elapse before his beams have reduced the world to order and beauty, and clothed a purified humanity with light as with a garment.

But he has come:

The Revealer of the snares and chasms that lurk in darkness
The Rebuker of every evil thing that prowls by night
The Stiller of the storm-winds of passion
The Quickener of all that is wholesome
The Adorner of all that is beautiful
The Reconciler of contradictions
The Harmonizer of discord
The Healer of diseases
The Savior from sin

He has come!

The Torch of truth
The Anchor of hope
The Pillar of faith
The Rock for strength
The Refuge for security
The Fountain for refreshment
The Vine for gladness
The Rose for beauty
The Lamb for tenderness
The Friend for counsel
The Brother for love

Jesus Christ has trod this world. The trace of the Divine footsteps will never be obliterated. And those Divine footsteps were the footsteps of a Man! The example of Christ is such as men can follow.

On! until mankind wears his image!

On! toward yon summit on which stands,
not an angel,
not a disembodied spirit,
not an abstract of ideal and unattainable virtue,
But The Man, Jesus Christ.

By Peter M. Bayne

Saturday, February 21, 2009

No More Words of Love...I Promise

So, were you a little weirded out by that last post? too. Let me explain.

Some contend that blogging, by its very nature, is entirely self-revealing. While I acknowledge that it is partially revelatory, the fact is, the blogger has complete control over what is revealed and much of his/her life remains completely private and obscure.

I, for one, primarily write about the intellectual antics taking place in my brain and don't engage in deep, personal revelation, right? Please say yes. For example, have I ever shared my New Year's Resolutions with you? Nevermind that I haven't made any for the previous 10-20 years. Why don't I make New Year's Resolutions? Well...not only am I unable to create a list that isn't entirely overwhelming, it seems a bit artificial to make promises to myself. I mean, c'mon...if I really want to do a thing, I will. And if I don't, I won't. Calling it a resolution doesn't make me any more determined to do it. Besides, if I break a comittment to myself, who really cares? And who even knows? If neither pride nor shame are motivating factors...what's the point?

Even if I did make NYR, I doubt I'd share them, you know. Afterall, do I really want to broadcast everything I'd like to "fix" about myself? Not so much.

Here's the dilemma: if I make resolutions and don't share them, they are meaningless promises to myself. If I do share them, I open myself up for:
1) revealing more than I care for you to know about my personal life
2) revealing more than you care to know about my personal life
3) showing how utterly lame my expectations for myself are
4) public success - which is self-promoting and self-congratulatory
5) public failure - which is actually not so bad, 'cause it makes other people feel good about themselves prepare to feel good about yourselves.

This year, I decided to make resolutions...but only 3 of them, mind you. The first is for the benefit of my aging body and the second is for the benefit of my heart (you know, the one from which the mouth derives its speech). The specifics of these two shall remain undisclosed for everyone's sake! The third resolution, however, is for the benefit of my aging mind and you, my faithful readers, are about to be "in the know."

If you paid any attention to the beginning of this post, you may wonder what in the world all this has to do with explaining the previous "Words of Love" note. third resolution is to memorize at least 1 poem, or literary passage, or Scripture passage, or hymn, etc. each month, in order to keep my brain active. My choice for February was the Lord Byron poem which I shared on Valentine's Day. Since my mental and emotional energies are directed to activities other than writing these days, I have to share other people's thoughts with you and those newly memorized "Words of Love" were at my disposal. Feel better now? Me too. Can't have you thinkin' I've turned all soft and sweet on you now, can I?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Words of Love

There is no land so sacred, no air so pure and so wholesome
As is the air she breathes, and the soil that is pressed by her footsteps.
Here for her sake will I stay, and like an invisible presence
Hover around her forever, protecting, supporting her weakness.
from Longfellow's Miles Standish

I've got a tattoo with her name right through my soul
And I think everything she touches turns to gold.
from Guy Clark's Stuff That Works

They look'd up to the sky whose floating glow
Spread like a rosy ocean, vast and bright;
They gazed at the glittering sea below,
Whence the broad moon rose circling into sight;

They heard the waves splash, and the wind so low,
And saw each other's dark eyes darting light
Into each other - and beholding this,
Their lips drew near, and clung into a kiss;

A long, long kiss, a kiss of youth, and love,
And beauty, all concentrating like rays
Into one focus, kindled from above;
Such kisses as belong to early days,
Where heart, and soul, and sense, in concert move,
And the blood's lava, and the pulse a blaze,
Each kiss a heart-quake, - for a kiss's strength,
I think, must be reckon'd by its length.
from Lord Byron: Passionate Romantic

from Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet

Monday, February 9, 2009

Confessions of a Recovering Perfectionist

In the past, if company was coming, here's what I would do throughout my whole house in addition to the typical dusting, sweeping and mopping:

Empty, clean, and reorganize every drawer, cabinet and closet

Scrub all baseboards

Take down, launder and rehang all window treatments

Wash all doors, handles and frames

Dust and wash blinds

Move all furniture, dusting the backs and vacuuming underneath/behind

Scrub all garbage cans, inside and out

Disassemble all fans/light fixtures and thoroughly clean before reassembling

Launder all layers of bedding - pads, sheets, blankets, quilts, shams...

Empty and scrub inside and outside of fridge

Pull out fridge and oven and clean underneath

Clean oven

Scrub dining and kitchen tables and chairs, including legs

Launder shower curtains

Remove all books from shelves, reorganize, dust each one, and clean shelves

Hang all rugs outside to beat out dust and freshen

I'm fairly sure I've left out several things, but you get the idea. It was not fun being me! And, understandably, we only had company once or twice a year. Those who have been in our home in the last couple of years know that now the pendulum has swung the opposite way.

Don't get me wrong...there's still nothing I love more than a house completely clean and fresh from top to bottom! The difference is that now I can function even when it's not.

What changed? I'll save that for another day...I have some spring cleaning to do...I'm hosting Supper Club Friday night!