the PRODIGAL returns

We delve into the world of non-believing, into the emptiness of denial, into the realm of anti-religion looking for answers.  We look to worldly pleasures and comforts for fulfillment.

Wherever we look,
there you are, the One who never deserted,
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patiently awaiting our return.

We are the seekers.
We yearn, we search
in realms beyond us
for that which has always been within.

The prodigal returns. LUKE 15:11-32

parables

I’ve known the parables attributed to Jesus ever since my boyhood days in Sunday School class and vacation Bible School.  To me they were nothing more than neat stories which had no application in contemporary society.  Not until I was ready for God to illuminate my darkness, did I read these parables in a spiritual context.  They then began to pop off the pages with amazing truth and wisdom.CANDLE

The story of the prodigal son is my favorite because I lived that story through alcoholism and recovery.  The verses continue to humble me today even after many years of sober-living.  I knew of a God as a child, I turned my back and traveled to the “far country” to find my fortune and pleasure, I suffered financially and morally, I finally came home to Father who was waiting excitedly for me with open arms.  It was probably the most profound home-coming I shall ever experience.

One of today’s inspirational readings cites the parable of the talents.  “For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling to a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.” Matthew 25:14

In the times of Jesus a talent was worth more than $5000.  To one servant he gave 5 talents, to anther he gave 2, and to another he gave 1 talent.  The first two servants invested the money wisely and when the man returned from his travels his money had increased.  The third servant had buried the talent in the ground for fear of losing it and thereby bearing his master’s wrath upon returning.  The servant did indeed suffer his master’s anger because of his timidity in using the talent wisely.

Jesus is the travelling man who showered humanity with unfathomable wealth in wisdom and truth before he was crucified.  He entrusted his disciples with the “talents” of eternity instructing them to invest that which he had taught them and to increase God’s wealth throughout the world.  That’s his simple directive yesterday, today, and forever.

I am basically an easy-going man.  Don’t get excited about too many things and don’t rely on worldly wealth for validation or fulfilment.  There is a part of me that could be labeled “lazy”.  Yep, guilty as charged.  Sloth is one of my favorite character defects and it has been a reliable  bed mate  of depression for most of my life.  Two more of sloth’s definitions in the Merriam Webster are “inertia” and “apathy”.  If I am inert it is probably because I am also depressed.  If I am depressed it is probably because I am inert.  Both scenarios lead to apathy.  Therefore, it is in my best interest and the health of my sobriety to stay active, stay involved with other recovering addicts, and stay protected by the wisdom of AA literature and scriptures.  That is my best defense against sloth, apathy, depression, and inertia.

Not only during this special observance time of giving thanks, but always, my recovery from alcoholism needs a daily dose of gratitude, a fix of appreciation for the multitude of blessings received, unmerited and undeserved, from a power greater than myself, a Higher Power whom I call God.  It is my fix for the brokenness which I call Larry.

“This little light of mine; I’m gonna let it shine”.  Childhood Sunday School simplicity nails the heart of Matthew 25: 14-28, the parable of the talents.  God did not save me from the pits of hell lived in alcoholic stupor to rise up into the salvation of sobriety without stipulations.  Jesus has told me that merely being sober is not enough.  The wealth, the talents, he has bestowed are not meant to be buried or hidden under a bushel basket.  They are to be shared unselfishly with the broken masses.  They are meant to be invested in the still suffering addict, the depressed man who has no source of consolation, and ultimately returned to Jesus himself as payment with interest for his grace shed upon me.  It’s not complicated and with an attitude of gratitude, it is entirely possible for even a man like me, a wretched and lost soul, to return and bask in the light of God.namaste rainbow

 

walk on the wild side

 

hard-day

Have you ever taken a walk on the wild side?  Maybe you told your mom and dad you were sleeping over at Susie’s house when in truth you were shacking up with Tony at a flea-bag motel.  Maybe you got caught with a few doobies by the local cop and you gave him the “fun” he wanted in exchange for forgetting about it.  Maybe you lied about the new boots you shoplifted and told your husband you did some babysitting for the money.

Was that walk on the wild side more like a trip through hell?  You got involved in sex for pay to cover your college expenses.  You stole your grandmother’s diamond ring to cover a drug debt.  You lied to your spouse about the perfumed shirt collar after the office party.  You kept your mistress on the other side of town while claiming to be working many hours of overtime at the office.  You spent your entire bank account on a weekend of gambling at the casino and your wife did not have money for the baby’s formula.

Or perhaps you devoted your youth and your money to an addiction?  Alcohol, heroin, cocaine, meth, sex?  You lied, cheated, stole, murdered.  You made your family wish that you were never born.  You had no friends other than drunks and druggies.  After awhile they got sick of you too.  Is that your story?

Years ago a rich landowner had two sons of whom he was very proud.   The elder son was industrious, loyal, beloved by family and friends alike.  The younger son was a playboy, not as diligent, and somewhat devious .  He heard of a country nearby where life was pleasant, where men lounged by the poolside sipping fine tasting margaritas  served by voluptuous maidens….naked maidens.

He schemed a plan to move to that country to live the good life.  One fine morning, the son approached his father saying, “Dad, half of your estate will be mine when you pass on.  Would you consider giving it to me now so that I can relocate to this great little country I’ve been reading about and build my own empire?”

Now, Dad was no country bumpkin.  He knew what his son was planning but loved him greatly and agreed to do as he was asked.  The son departed for his future amidst tears in the household and a father deeply grieved.  He soon arrived at his destination and began the life of leisure he desired.  The pool, the maidens, the drinking all led him to believe he had undoubtedly found utopia.

Within a few years the money was depleted.  He looked for a job, but his reputation as a sluggard and a liar preceded him and there were no good jobs befitting the son of a wealthy landowner.  His last desperate hope was at the slaughterhouse cleaning out pig pens.  The good-hearted owner hired him and the young man worked very hard for  minimum wages.  His desperation grew and he could not afford even a meal at the local MickeyD’s on the corner where he lived.  So he shared with the hogs  the slop which was fed to them daily.

After several months living this way, the young wayward son feared that he would die in this condition.  “I am the son of a wealthy landowner.  Why am I living this way?  I will go back home, throw myself at my father’s feet and beg forgiveness asking only that he keep me as one of the household servants.”

And so he did this.

Sitting on his long, wide front porch, the father spied his son approaching from many miles away.  “Behold, my long-lost son is coming home, he is returning from the far country.”

He instructed the head chef to prepare a luxurious meal of all the son’s favorite foods, he instructed the tailor to lay out the finest robes and slippers in the household, and he told his social assistant to invite all the townspeople for a week-long party with enough food and wine for a week of festivities

And then he ran down the lane winding to the house, beheld his unshaven, dirty, smelly son and embraced him with hugs and kisses saying, “My son, I have been with you always in the far country and I have never stopped loving you.”

The young prodigal was flabbergasted.  His father should be angry and ready to cast him in the local hoosegow in chains for what had happened.  The inheritance had been wasted on partying and loose women, the family reputation had been disgraced and yet, he was received as a prince, a man of honor.

The young son bathed in fine perfumed waters, put on the finest robes in the house and sat down to enjoy the homecoming with the best wine and food the household could provide.  It was a joyous celebration in Father’s house.

Okay, most of you know this story from the book of Luke.  We also know that the elder son who had stayed at home, tended to his father’s business, lived a life of moderation and responsibility threw quite a hissy fit over his fathers magnanimous reception for the philandering younger brother.  He felt that somehow he was owed a greater portion of the father’s love because he had crossed every t and dotted every i in his life of obedience.

We are all prodigal sons.  Not because of the trek to the far country, but rather, because we underestimate the vastness and depth of the Father’s love for us.  That love is not dependent on our return from the far country or our contrition.  It does not require bowed heads, vows of repentance, or promises of good works.  The love which exceeds all human understanding and comprehension is simply there….always.  Don’t have to perform tricks, jump through hoops, or repeat endless oaths to receive it.

That love goes wherever I go.  It went with me through my 17 years of addiction to alcohol and wrapped me in its protection when I was too numbed and senseless to protect myself.  It kept me from suicide when suicide appeared to be the most intelligent decision to make.  It does not abandon me when I behave like a fool or when I forget to pray.  It is simply there….always.

Certainly, the parable of the prodigal tells me of the futility in chasing worldly pleasure and of the futility in seeking perfection trying to gain the father’s approval.  But, at its core the story teaches unconditional, unending, ever-present, unquestioning love for me flowing from the One dwelling within as Lord of my life.

I agree with King David in Psalm  23:6,  “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

That pool of the Father’s love is bottomless and I can give it away freely forever.  I didn’t earn it; I don’t deserve it;  and I can’t lose it.  Never.

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