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Category: From the Heart
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I received this email today:

Hi, Prayer Warriors,

How are you?

President Obama, according to this article, has picked a church and personal spiritual advisors.

Whether we agree with his politics or not, let's pray that he is surrounded with God's truth and His love.

Thank you.

May the Lord bless you,

I like the tone of this note. Thanks, Philip. In my view, it is much more Christian than an "imprecatory prayer" against the President.

Allow me to associate myself with this invitation to pray for the President of the United States.
Category: From the Heart
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
In the midst of his humiliation and desperation, the prodigal son experienced an epiphany: his father's hired men had a better life than he did. He resolved to go back home and say, "Father, I've sinned against God, I've sinned before you; I don't deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand."

He picked himself up and went home to his father.

When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, his father ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: "Father, I've sinned against God, I've sinned before you; I don't deserve to be called your son ever again."

But the father wasn't listening. He was calling to the servants, "Quick. Bring him clean clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Kill the fatted calf. We're going to feast! We're going to celebrate! My son has come home! My son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, but now is found."

I have viewed the Parable of the Lost Son through the prism of at least three different life perspectives.

1. As a child, I understood the protection and the power of my father. Fathers are fearless and wise--fully capable of insulating little boys from the cruelties and meanness of the world. When trouble was on the horizon, his face turned to a stony mask of determination and deadly force, intimidating evil doers back into the shadows. Two young punks at the Van Nuys post office, carelessly menacing a citizen with a small child for some kicks, quickly came to understand that the game had suddenly turned sour--and the air was now thick with danger. In the face of his terrorizing scowl, they backed down. What would have happened if they had not? Later--but not too much. My dad sitting in his big American sedan at the top of the hill, with a baseball bat on the seat and his .357 literally strapped to his leg. Absolutely crazy and scary to think back on it now. But no one was going to insinuate that a neighborhood street was not safe for his son to ride his bike on. A bad bunch that did not fear the law would understand force. The head of a bullying clan had miscalculated. A foolish individual was on the edge of bringing a knife to a gun fight. They backed down. I rode my bike without incident.

Like John Wayne, "he wouldn't be wronged, he wouldn't be insulted, and he wouldn't be laid a hand on. He didn't do those things to other people, and he expected the same from them." "If the world was not black and white, why the hell not?"

As a child, I understood perfectly why the prodigal went home. Home was safe. Dad was strong. Dad was powerful enough to save him. The real question: why would you leave in the first place?

2. There was a moment when my dad stopped being John Wayne and became Gene Hackman--still bigger than life and blustering, but now balding, paunchy, and flawed. No longer was he inerrant or bullet proof. His black and white world suddenly turned upside down. He was now confused and battered, flat-out wrong sometimes--but still counter-punching and looking desperately for vindication.

As a young man, I understood why the prodigal left. It was time to make your mark outside of the old man's shadow. Too much advice--not all of it good, really. Too much pessimism. Too much bitterness. What the hell did he know? How hard could all of this really be?

When I was a young man, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But as I matured, I was astonished by how much he had learned in a just few short years.
~~my apologies to Mark Twain

3. I have said this before, but I was born again, again, on 12 May 1999. That is the day I became a father. It was the day I saw the world anew. It was the day I lost control of my life and my emotions, and it was the best-slash-most important day of my life. It was not until that moment that I understood the true import of the story of the prodigal.

The utter sublimeness of the parable of the Lost Son is the reaction of the father. When I think about him looking down that road and seeing his son, I can feel the absolute rapture of the moment. Can it be? Is it really him? How many times, I wonder, had this father seen his son walking down that road in the happy recesses of his imagination? How many times had this father caught a glimpse of someone walking down this road and been carried away with the momentary sanguine hope that it was his son? No, it's him this time! It really is him this time! This boy was gone. Gone forever. But there he is! Praise God! There he is!

The absolute perfection of the metaphor is that God the Father might actually love us as much as we love our sons. This is the way God feels about me? Wow! This truly is a loving God. Yes. He let me go. Yes. He let me make my mistakes. But there he is, weeping with joy at my return and all is forgiven. It didn't matter why the boy left; it didn't matter what the boy did while he was gone. The only thing of real consequence was that the son was back. The strength of that metaphor was completely lost on me before I experienced fatherly love for my two sons. Now it is the most powerful illustration in the Holy Book--the very heart of the Gospel.

An Aside: for me, this is strong evidence that Jesus really was divine, or really had a family somewhere, or someone other than Jesus imagined this parable.

So, my third life perspective on this story, in addition to my added comprehension of God the Father, is the view of my own father as only another father can know him. As a father, I can now fully understand the true power and scope of my father's love for me.

It's a love without end, Amen.

I don't say this nearly enough. Thanks, Dad. Happy Father's Day, 2009.