Last week, I blogged about extending grace and how we can give grace because God gave grace to us. It’s easier to extend grace to those extra-grace required people in our lives and I think all of us have those people somewhere in the mix of our friends, relatives, colleagues or neighbors; it’s easier to extend grace to these people when we stop to think about how God so freely extends grace to us when we are deep in the midst of our own extra-grace required moments.
So why is grace and forgiveness so hard for humans to give? Why is it that families end up not on speaking terms or completely estranged from one another because they are unwilling to let go of the hurt and pain that was inflicted by another in their family? Yes, boundaries are in order for sure. God doesn’t expect us to put ourselves in harms way or suffer ongoing physical or verbal abuse, but to hold on to something that happened years ago and allow an incident to fester often brings anger, a lack of peace, more hurt, estrangement from family, separation, isolation and loneliness.
In the story of the prodigal son, the father had two sons, one spent his money on wild-living and didn’t use the resources his father so freely gave him wisely. He spent all that the father had given him until he found himself alone and destitute. He squandered what he had. (Makes me wonder, what I am I doing with the resources that God has given me?) Then one day, the son came to his senses and realized, he needed to go back home. He knew that even if the father didn’t welcome him back as his son, he could still work for him and be a lot better off than where he was at. So he changed his direction and headed home. As we know, the father welcomed him back and forgave him with open arms. Not only that, the father also celebrated the son’s return with a “Welcome Home Party”.
But the oldest son couldn’t forget or forgive. He felt like he was being treated unfairly because he’d been faithful to the father all his life. He’d stayed the course. He worked hard, yet no party had ever been given in his honor. He was so mad, he wouldn’t go into the party.
The father loved both his sons. He wanted the older son to be part of the celebration too. He went out to talk with him, but the older son still refused to come to the party. The father said, “You can have a party any time you want to, because all that I have is yours. It’s right to celebrate your brother because he was lost and now he is found. He has returned home.”
The older son had a choice to forgive and enjoy the party or stay mad, and hang onto his unforgiveness. He chose the later and missed the party.
What if he would have chosen to forgive and come into the party instead of staying mad? He could enjoyed time with family and friends. He could have reestablished his relationship with his brother and he could have also experienced the love, acceptance and blessing of the father. Why didn’t he choose to come in? Why did he instead remain miserable and alone outside the party?
Could it be that he really didn’t understand the heart of the father? I believe that the father genuinely loved both of his sons. I don’t think he loved one son more than the other. He genuinely cared for both of them otherwise he wouldn’t have went out to talk with the older son. The father’s heart wanted to give to both of his sons. He was a generous father. All that he had was available to his sons. He was holding nothing back. Yet the older son hadn’t grasped that truth yet. His bitterness and unforgiveness clouded his eyes to the father’s generosity. If he would have let go of his bitterness and forgiven his brother, he too, could have entered the party. He too would have experienced the blessing of the father. He too could have celebrated the warmth of the father’s love, but he missed it. I wonder, “Are you missing the party?” Bring your bitterness and unforgiveness to the Father and experience His love and blessing. Don’t miss the party!
PARENT OR GRANDPARENT PRAYER:
I bring you any bitterness, hurt or pain I feel over past incidents in my life. Yes, there have been times, sometimes intentionally and other time unintentionally, when someone did or said something that has hurt me. I give those things to you Lord, I don’t want to hang onto to them any more. If I have been treated unfairly on the job or by a friend or family member, I choose now to forgive and extend your grace which has been so freely given to me. I realize Lord, that you are a generous, loving Father. You have held nothing back from me, but have freely given me all that you have. You freely gave your own son for me. Thank you for your generosity and deep love. As I receive your generous gift to me, let me also freely extend to others the love you have given me. I pray my kids will understand how much you have given and how generous you are too. May we be a family that is quick to forgive and extend your grace. Amen
MUSINGS ON WHAT MAKES FAITH STICK IN THE HEART OF A CHILD
This section this week doesn’t really go with the theme, it’s just something that has been bouncing around in my mind – What make faith stick in the hearts of our children? Here are a few thoughts from my own childhood of what made faith stick in my own life.
* My mom made church a priority. It wasn’t something we did when it was convenient or just on Christmas and Easter. It was simply something we did every week. It was part of our lives.
* I had caring, consistent Sunday School teachers who valued me and who were sold on investing in the lives of kids. They didn’t teach for 6 weeks or a year or two, many of them taught for a lifetime.
* I had a community of people praying for me and encouraging me – a great grandmother, my mom, teachers, pastors and I’m sure others. Prayer was a big part of their lives.
* The message I heard about God was consistent. The same at church as in the community or in other words, my teachers “walked the talk”.
* Spiritual disciplines such as reading the Bible and prayer were encouraged and even rewarded. I was encouraged to “own” my faith, and discover for myself who God is instead of believing because others believed.
* Church was a fun place to be where I was warmly welcomed and was given opportunities to have relationships with other kids as well as teachers. It was very much a community. We had potlucks, picnics, fun outings for youth, parties, Christmas programs, etc.
* I experienced God myself through worship, answers to prayer and miracles.I can’t explain this, but I actually felt a sense of His presence in my life.
* We had altar services where we prayed for each other, prayed for those who were sick or had needs or just prayed. Prayer was very much encouraged and answers to prayer were expected – not demanded of God, but expected. We knew God was big and that He could do anything.
Yes, I grew up in a small rural community and a small church where everyone knew everyone else, but still I wonder, how can we recapture part of this feel today? How does this translate into our busy lives today? How can we make faith stick in the hearts of our children?
SHARE A STORY: Luke 15:21-31
Once a son asked his dad for lots of money so that he could move away from home and have fun. He spent all his money on parties and having fun, then when all his money was gone, he had to feed pigs. He didn’t even have enough money to buy food to eat. He was very hungry and he was sorry that he had made bad choices. He decided to go home and when he got home, the dad …
Do you remember what happened next? Was his dad mad at him for making poor choices? Did he tell the son to go away? No! The dad loved his son, just like God loves us. He was happy to see his son. He had been watching (Put hand above eyes.) and waiting for the son to come home for a long time. He hugged him, (Hug!) gave him a new robe to wear and a special ring for his finger. (Show ring.) Guess what the dad did next? Well, the dad was so happy that he decided to have a big party to celebrate. It was a welcome home party for his son. (Say, “Yeah!”)
But not everyone was happy that the son was home. The older brother was mad! (Make a mad face.) He was really mad (Mad face again.) He didn’t think his brother deserved a party. He was so mad that (Make a mad face and cross your arms.) he wouldn’t even go to the party.
The dad loved both his sons. He went out to talk with the older son. He begged him to come in and join the party, but the older brother was still mad! He said, “I’ve worked hard for you all my life. I’ve always obeyed you and yet you didn’t give me anything so that I could celebrate and have a party with my friends. It’s not fair!”
Then the dad said, “Son, you can have a party any time you want because everything I have is yours. Come and celebrate because your brother is home.” The dad wanted him to forgive instead of being mad. (Show mad face again.) He wanted him to come and enjoy the party too.God wants you to forgive and be kind to others too, just like that dad was. When you remember how much God loves you, it’s easier to stop being mad and forgive others. You can ask God to help you forgive and remember, God loves you a lot. You are special to Him.
MEMORIZE: Eph. 4:32 ERV – (Hold hands like holding a book.)
Be kind – (Gently pull one hand across the top of the other hand.)
And loving – (Hug self.)
To each other – (Point with whole hand outwards.)
Forgive each other – (Point outwards.)
As God forgave you – (Point upwards.)
Dear God, Thank you for loving me. Help me to love others like you love me. Help me to be kind and forgive when someone makes me feel sad or mad because I know you forgive me. Amen
KNOW: God loves me like a father loves his son.
TALK ABOUT: Feelings & Forgiveness
ASK: Who loves you?God loves me.
AND DO: I can forgive and be kind.
FUN IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK
* Celebrate your kids this week – have a small party when your child shares or learns something new. Invite your whole family to join the celebration just like the dad in the Bible story did.
* Read some books about feelings and talk about different emotions. A fun book to read is, “Mad Maddie Maxwell” by Stacie K.B. Maslyn