It amazes me the way God speaks to us sometimes. I was cleaning up a mess on my kitchen floor a few weeks ago when He showed me something. As I was close to the ground, my one year old took notice and toddled over joyfully. In his mind, I must have been on the floor for the sole purpose of amusing him.
I like movies. My family’s first tv was a black and white 13inch-er. We got 3 channels. My dad would watch the nightly news, usually on CBS, and when the news was over, we could change the channel and watch Star Trek—the original, of course.
The parable of the prodigal son is a familiar passage of scripture. It is the story of a profligate black sheep of a family, who demands his inheritance and strikes out on his own to be the master of his destiny. A young man who doesn’t seek counsel, or heed the wisdom of elders. One who, in his youth and inexperience, nevertheless knows...well, everything...and wishes to throw off the restraints imposed by those who love him to suffocation and who don’t understand just how ready he is to take on the world.
There are many incredible lessons to be learned through the study of this parable, including the pursuing, merciful love of Father God who is watching for the return of His child, forgiving and forgetting dishonor, rebellion and transgressions in the same unbelievable moment, and celebrating renewed sonship. As a proclaimed child of this Father since the age of four, however, I have most often related to the oldest son. Yes, that’s right, I admit it. I have often felt a twinge of sympathy for the bitter, unbending brother of the redeemed black sheep.
The earthly father of the parable divided his estate and gave both of his sons their inheritances. The word “prodigal” actually means “wastefully extravagant; spending resources recklessly”. The oldest son, dutiful and prudent, took seriously the responsibility of cultivating and prospering the estate assets that were left. He was a man who stewarded his inheritance to bring honor to his father and ensure his own future security. I can imagine his reaction when he, trudging up from the field after a long day’s work, hears the music and laughter of a party already in progress, and finds out what’s going on.
“Why didn’t anyone come and get me? This wheat-fattened calf that’s been slaughtered...who’s paying for that? What in the world is the best ceremonial robe doing on that pig-stinking fellow? We’ve only got one of those, you know, and I was going to wear it on my wedding day. Who gave you permission to haul out wineskins enough for the entire neighborhood while I was out on the back forty? Who? DAD?”
I can see him now, standing stubbornly outside, thinking oldest-brother, anti-prodigal thoughts. “Restored to sonship, that’s what’s happened. That know-it-all punk kid is back, and he wasn’t content to cut this estate in half; he’s going to do it again, because he is wearing the family ring and is once again a joint heir. Wonderful.”
During a recent Woman’s Encounter session, I was reminded of what that earthly father said to his understandably irate older son: “Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.” This is the position of a son of the household, an heir. The youngest brother did not ask for a celebration, a fattened calf, or a ring. In fact, they were given to him, not because of what he’d done, but in spite of it. Even though he saw himself as a servant, Father saw him as a son. The eldest wanted to know why he was never given even a young goat and a party, particularly when he had worked so diligently? Didn’t he deserve reward...payment, even? Payment for service; this is the mindset of a servant of the household.
I so often approach God from a position of servanthood rather than sonship. If I pray with enough faith, if I confess enough scripture, if I give up the idols in my life, if I fast...then Father will bless me. He will give me good things, approve of me, celebrate me; it will be a reward, or a payment, for my effort. Even though it was by grace, through faith, that I became His daughter, somehow that process doesn’t apply to everyday life after adoption.
I can admit to an elder-brother twinge in my gut sometimes when I hear a praise report on Sunday morning; when a brother has received a resource from heaven that I need or long for. It’s a deep-seated, human fear of being overlooked in a family with limited resources, but thank God, I do not need to stand outside the party, worrying about my future or asking “What about me?” I can celebrate, knowing that I’m a joint heir with Jesus, my warrior King and the Lord of all, and my inheritance is a kingdom of limitless resources and unconditional love without end, including approval in spite of, not because of, any works—good or bad—that I lay on the altar.
“You are always with me, child. I am always with you. Everything I have is yours. Everything.”
I began my tribute by singing to my mother, Elaine Veenstra, at her Celebration of Life this summer. Little did I know the journey of grief, emptiness, and joy that I would encounter.
Recently, while recording Papa's words to me, He remarked,"Before Me, none are qualified to have an opinion." (Papa’s Listening Book, 3/18)
"Ooo! Harsh!" No. True. Giving an accurate opinion requires a proper perspective, good information, some foresight and a dose of Wisdom. Man, in his natural state, draws up short in all these qualifications
I recently came across a story about the brilliant ethicist, John Kavanaugh. While he was at a point in his life where he was trying to decide how to spend the rest of it, he took a trip to Calcutta to visit Mother Teresa. During one of their times talking together, he asked the aging nun if she would pray for him, that he would have clarity to make this decision. Her answer surprised him when she said it and surprised me when I read it.
Many of us are aware that there is an enemy of our soul—Satan . . . However, thank God for Jesus! We may have an enemy of our soul, but we have an even greater Lover of our soul—Jesus Christ.
One minute everything can feel in control and in an instant all inner calm can be gone. My 2-year-old really tests the strength of my inner calm. One very early morning, I was feeding my infant while my toddler was playing independently. All was fine and everyone was in a good headspace that morning. Then silence…
“I’ll just order it online…”
“Let’s order some coffee from Amazon…”
“If I don’t like it, I can always send it back…”
I’m willing to bet that we’ve all said something along these lines recently when we want/need something. At one point, we just had the world at our fingertips with our smartphones, but now we can have to world delivered straight to our door!
The phrase “going all in” is not an easy phrase to apply to our lives, but it is something that God is calls us to do. Right now in my life, I face this more than ever before; God is calling me to go all in even more.
God is Good. All the time. This is a truth I have come to learn intimately in my life, and the power of simply acknowledging and believing such a statement is bigger than anything else I’ve experienced. Getting to the point of such revelation has not been a simple journey for me, though.
I have been thinking about my original experience of becoming a Christian lately. Especially on the days when my heart is squeezing with painful yearning to see the people I love delivered from the destructive paths they seem determined to walk. Those times make me think there is a lone howling wolf caged inside of me. The longing, the yearning, the desperate cry for their lives to be spared comes out in this keening, mournful cry from the very depths of my soul.
I love Christmas. For me, one of the best parts of Christmas is the time I get to spend with family...Christmas has always been about family and being at “home” with God. The first Christmas was about just that—God’s plan to restore us to His family where we could live at “home” with Him.
Does the Lord ever speak to you through a song? He does to me quite frequently, possibly because I consistently am listening to music, or have a tune of some sort going through my head. This fall, there has been a particular theme stirring in my heart, and it was sparked from a conversation I had with the Lord over the song Every Table is an Altar by the worship band, Bread & Wine.