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We, the prodigal people

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“There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.” Luke 15:11-13

We, the prodigal people, are squandering our earthly inheritance.

After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. (v 14-16) pink pig

When will our hunger leave us desperately longing, even for food fit for pigs?

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father. (v 17-20a)

When will we come to our senses? 

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  (v. 20b-21)

There will be a sensational celebration that day!

In our new sensation…

We will see,
shade by shade and color by color,
without presumption or conclusion.

We will hear,
word by word and sound upon sound,
without any hint of assumption.

We will smell,
scent by scent and odor by odor,
without recollection or revulsion.

We will taste,
bitter and sour, salty and sweet,
without hunger or apprehension.

We will touch,
soft and tender, harsh and painful,
without reluctance or anesthetization.

What will I do when I come to my senses? What will you?

For only then will we, the prodigal people,
realize just how far we’ve gone,
and decide it’s time to come home.

 

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The Power of a Life Well-Lived

JFR photo shoot_0002In honor and remembrance of John F Rilling, my dad, who would have celebrated his 80th birthday today.

Psalm 37:1-6

Fret not yourself because of the wicked,
    be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass,
    and wither like the green herb.

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
    so you will dwell in the land, and enjoy security.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your vindication as the light,
    and your right as the noonday.

It’s amazing how people come out of the woodwork when they hear time is growing short. A deadline really motivates, especially when it’s imminent. That’s what happened when my dad received his diagnosis. People he hadn’t heard from in decades started writing, emailing, and calling. Each one had the same message: were it not for you, I would not be who I am today.

It was heartening to hear that my father’s deeds had borne fruit as they echoed through the years. Though Dad appreciated the sentiments shared, it didn’t change things. He would soon die in his home of many years. A man of modest means, he was never wealthy, never famous, never in the headlines. As the world measures, he had very little to show for himself.

It doesn’t seem fair that a man who lives an honest life, works hard, cares for his family, supports his friends, and mentors his co-workers, just perishes. I hear daily of those who lead tarnished lives with questionable business practices, extravagant spending, and expendable relationships, and yet they prosper. The Bible may say that the wicked “will soon wither, soon die away,” but I see plenty who are flourishing. Why bother to lead a good life when this is what it gets you?

My thinking did an about face when a kind friend offered, “While the wicked may prosper, they never leave a legacy.”

So true. The stories which follow the wicked are best forgotten, but those shared after a life well lived are told and re-told. They magnify the goodness and continue to inspire. Dad didn’t plan what people would say about him after he was gone, he had just made regular deposits in other people’s lives, and the interest compounded over the years. This flowed freely in loving remembrance after he left us.

Not long after the memorial service a group of employees from the neighborhood Starbucks came by the house with a gift. In recognition of the many hours Dad had spent at the Johns Creek Starbucks welcoming and conversing with patrons, they had framed a green Starbucks apron. At the top was Dad’s photo encircled by the apron ties, and underneath were the words: John, honorary barista of store 8202.

When a good man dies, we’re left to tell the stories of his life, not only to remember him but to take meaning and purpose for our own. While the wicked may flourish for a little earthly while, the righteous leave a legacy of goodness and mercy that inspires even greater things. One might even say that it gives such a life power over death itself.

Wendy Rilling LeBolt

Today: Mother Teresa said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

Concurrently published in the Lenten devotional booklet distributed by the Church of the Good Shepherd, Vienna, VA.

You remind me of your father

We said our final goodbyes to Dad this weekend. What a collection we were, gathered there to pay our respects.

  • The golf group – who remembered the yips he got on short putts like I did
  • The bridge partners – who remembered the joy the game gave him
  • The business partners and employees – who remember the mind and the method of a man on a mission
  • The Starbucks cohort – who remember the tall, black coffee and ready conversation
  • The family – who realize how much of this man they didn’t know

2010-11-01_16-13-00_99A bit of an enigma, this guy. But put us all together in one room and have us share stories, and lo and behold we’re all talking about the same guy! yips, joy, mind, method, coffee, conversation…the common denominator: working together to make it work better.

Funny, as I made the rounds people would greet me with…”I knew your Dad from…” They all fit in a category. I joked with Adam, a young man whom Dad had employed and mentored over the last 5 years, that we all needed colored t-shirts corresponding to the John-team we were on. “That’s exactly what your Dad would have said,” he told me.

We all laughed.

I loved chatting with an athletic looking, sport shirt-clad man named Mark, who also happened to be in a wheelchair. Mark was a golfer. He had an assist device that allowed him to stand from his chair so he could swing the club. But Dad felt, in looking at him swing, that if he had something on his chair that widened his base of support, he could really improve his game. That, according to Mark, led to connecting him with the head golf pro at the Atlanta Athletic Club to see how this could be created. Mark told me he had just discovered such a device in use by another disabled golfer who could now hit the ball 300 yards. Mark lamented that he had shared the video of this, but Dad didn’t have time to see it. “He would have loved it,” Mark told me. Made me smile; yes he would have.

“You have your Dad’s smile,” Mark said. “That twinkle.”2011-07-15_14-22-16_765

Yep. That spark of an idea. There’s something more we need to do with this. There’s an idea here ready to be uncovered, ready to be acted upon, raring to go. That was Dad. Not trying to make a fortune. Not trying to get attention. Just trying to solve your problem, and yours, and yours. He lived simply and was completely satisfied, but he didn’t settle for that.

This was not discontent for him; it was purpose. He did not want what you had, he wanted what you wanted and immediately activated on helping you realize that desire. But only if you were in honest pursuit, which meant you were willing to work hard and apply all your resources to the project. That was his directive in every day.

Some people who came to the Service did not know my father except through his wife Melanie, whom he adored. They came on this day because of her. Even these introduced themselves to me and offered honestly, “We didn’t know your father, but now after hearing you and seeing you, now we do.”

What treasured words those are. ‘We didn’t know the father, but now we have seen him and we know him.’

That would be enough. If I could live out my days in such a way that people remarked, “You remind me of your father,” I would be content. Joy, mind, method, coffee, conversation, connection, solution…everything but the yips on my short putts, please. But yes, I even had those. Guess I’m more like my father than I thought.

What a privilege. What a responsibility.

“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” ~ John 14: 15-20

Amen

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