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"PLEASE COME BACK"
Max Lucado tells us about a girl named Christina. She lives in a small dusty village in Brazil. She’s bored. She feels like her strict parents have cheated her out of the joys of life. She longs for the excitement of the big city of Rio.
One morning her mother Maria finds Christina’s bed empty. Maria knew immediately where her daughter had gone. So she quickly throws some clothes in a bag, gathers up all her money, and heads for the bus station.
On her way, the mom enters one of those photograph booths in a local drug store and takes pictures of herself. She puts the pictures in her purse and takes the next bus to Rio de Janeiro.
She puts up pictures of herself all over town. But she can’t find her daughter. The weary mother gets back on the bus and weeps all the way home.
Months later, Christina slowly walks down the hotel stairs. She’s already worn down by life. Her young face is tired. Her brown eyes no longer dance with youth but speak of pain and fear.
A thousand times over she longed to go back home. She remembered the warm secure feeling of love and acceptance she had experience back with her mum in their little village. But she thought it was too late to turn back.
As she reached the bottom of the stairs, her eyes notice a familiar face. She looked again, and there on the lobby mirror was a small picture of her mother. Christina’s eyes burned and her throat tightened as she walked across the room and removed the small photo. Written on the back were these words: "Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter. Please come home." And she did.
Christine’s mom pulled out all the stops to get her child to come back home, and this is exactly what God is doing for His children. It’s not His will for anyone here in this room to perish. "Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter. Please come back to Jesus."
(From a sermon by Maarc Axelrod, Crazy About His Kids, 2/9/2011)
Why would God go to all the trouble to endure our bad choices and our flagrant sinning in order to have relationship with us? Hear the story of the lost son from the modern setting as told by Philip Yancey in his book What’s so Amazing about Grace.
Yancey tells the story of a prodigal daughter who grows up in Traverse City, Michigan. Disgusted with her old fashioned parents who overreact to her nose ring, the music she listens to, the length of her skirts, she runs away. She ends up in Detroit where she meets a man who drives the biggest car she’s ever seen. The man with the big car – she calls him “Boss” – recognizes that since she’s underage, men would pay premium for her. So she goes to work for him. Things are good for a while. Life is good. But she gets sick for a few days, and it amazes her how quickly the boss turns mean. Before she knows it, she’s out on the street without a penny to her name. She still turns a couple of tricks a night, and all the money goes to support her drug habit.
One night while sleeping on the metal grates of the city, she began to feel less like a woman of the world and more like a little girl. She begins to whimper. “God, why did I leave. My dog back home eats better than I do now.” She knows that more than anything in the world, she wants to go home. Three straight calls home get three straight connections with the answering machine. Finally she leaves a message. “Mom, dad, its me. I was wondering about maybe coming home. I’m catching a bus up your way, and it’ll get there about midnight tomorrow. If you’re not there, I‘ll understand.” During the seven hour bus ride, she’s preparing a speech for her father. And when the bus comes to a stop in the Traverse City station, the driver announces the fifteen-minute stop. Fifteen minutes to decide her life.
She walks into the terminal not knowing what to expect. But not one of the thousand scenes that have played out in her mind prepares her for what she sees. There in the bus terminal in Traverse City, Michigan, stands a group of forty brothers and sisters and great-aunts and uncles and cousins and a grandmother and a great-grandmother to boot. They’re all wearing goofy party hats and blowing noise-makers, and taped across the entire wall of the terminal is a computer-generated banner that reads – Welcome Home!
Out of the crowd of well-wishers breaks her dad. She stares out through the tears quivering in her eyes and begins her memorized speech. He interrupts her. “Hush, child. We’ve got no time for that. No time for apologies. We’ll be late. A big party is waiting for you at home.”
The boss of a big company needed to call one of his employees about an urgent problem with one of the main computers. He dialed the employee’s home telephone number and was greeted with a child’s voice, "Hello?" It was a quiet little voice. Feeling put out at the inconvenience of having to talk to a youngster, the boss asked, "Is your Daddy home?" "Yes," said the small voice. "May I talk with him?" the man asked. To the surprise of the boss, he replied, "No." Wanting to talk with an adult, the boss asked, "Is your Mommy there?" "Yes," came the answer. "May I talk with her?" Again, the little voice said, "No." Knowing that it was not likely that a young child would be left home alone, the boss decided he would just leave a message with the person who should be there watching over the child. "Is there anyone there besides you?" the boss asked the child. "Yes," said the child, "a policeman." Wondering what a cop would be doing at his employee’s home, the boss asked, "May I speak with the policeman?" "No, he is busy," said the child. "Busy doing what?" asked the boss. "Talking to Daddy and Mommy and the Fireman," came the answer. Growing concerned and even worried as he heard what sounded like a helicopter through the ear piece on the phone, the boss asked, "What is that noise?" "A hello-copper," answered the tiny voice. "What is going on there?" asked the boss, now alarmed. In an awed voice, the child answered, "They just landed the hello-copper" Alarmed, concerned and more than just a little frustrated, the boss asked, "Why are they there?" Still whispering, the young voice replied (along with a muffled giggle), "They are looking for me"
A FATHER'S FORGIVENESS
In his book, What’s So Amazing About Grace , Phillip Yancey tells the story of Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway grew up in a very devout evangelical family, and yet there he never experienced the grace of Christ. He lived a libertine life that most of us would call "dissolute"… but there was no father, no parent waiting for him and he sank into the mire of a graceless depression. A short story he wrote perhaps reveals the grace that he hoped for. It is the story of a Spanish father who decided to reconcile with his son who had run away to Madrid. The father, in a moment of remorse, takes out this ad in El Libro , a newspaper. "Paco, meet me at Hotel Montana, Noon, Tuesday… All is forgiven… Papa." When the father arrived at the square in hopes of meeti...
THE FATHER’S REACTION TO THE PRODIGAL SON AND HIS ELDER SON MIRRORS THE ANSWER ABRAHAM LINCOLN GAVE TO A QUESTION HE WAS ASKED ABOUT HOW HE WOULD TREAT THE ALL THE CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS ONCE THE CIVIL WAR WAS OVER.
EXPECTING VENGEANCE AND EVEN THOUGHTS OF EXECUTION BECAUSE OF TREASON, LINCOLN SURPRISED ALL OF THEM BY SAYING, "I WILL TREAT THEM AS IF THEY HAD NEVER BEEN AWAY."
When the great American storyteller Mark Twain was asked, “Who do you think is the best storyteller every lived?” Mark twain answered, “Jesus Christ.” “Then which story is the greatest story every told?” He replied, “The Story of the Prodigal Son.”
Julia had been singing "softly and Tenderly" by her father’s bedside. As the last word hummed in her throat, her father reached toward her. "I want that one," he said. His eyes rose to Julia in an urgent glare. "At the funeral?" she asked. He blinked slowly. "I’ll tell Reverend Walton," she said. "You," he whispered. "You."
She thought it was because of the chorus, where Jesus asks the weary sinner to come home. She thought her father was exhausted and wanted it to be over. After all of the pain, and the morphine, and the embarrassment of his own daughter changing his soiled bed sheets, he wanted to slip away softly and tenderly. So she told him she’d sing it.
Then her father had muttered something about Jack, that he’d like to see Jack, and Julia said, "I’ll sing at the service, I can guarantee that, but there’s not a lot I can do about Jack."
In the last few weeks of her father’s life, Julia had been asked again and again to call Jack on the phone. Jack never returned Julia’s message, but an hour after the viewing began, he walked into the funeral parlor, his eyes squinting as if he were entering bright light. His hair was pulled into a tail in the back, his face unshaven. Certainly, he could have worn a proper suit and tie instead of a black tweed jacket over a collarless shirt. The woman he lived with--a nurse he met while he was in some hospital for addictions--was supposedly keeping Jack straight, as he had put it, but evidently not straight enough to dress properly and get a haircut.
Jack sat next to their mother on the sofa and said something to her. She put her hand to his cheek, and he bent over, laying his head on her shoulder. He began to cry and leaned into her. She put her arms around him. He sobbed while their mother held him close. Julia moved toward the sofa, close enough to hear the rapid breathing that shook her brother’s shoulders. "I should have come home," he said between sobs. "I should have come home sooner."
"You’re here now," Anna said. "It’s okay. You’re here now." Julia watched her little brother--a grown man, forty-eight years old--curled on the couch next to their mother, his face in her shoulder. Their mother’s arms were around him, her cheek rested on his bowed head, her fingers stroked his hair.
She could hardly remember the feel of her mother’s arms around her, the caress of her hands, her lips pressed to Julia’s hair. She could not recall the last time her mother had comforted her. In all the weeks Julia had taken care of her parents, there was never as much as a pat or caress from her mother. And she knew--for the rest of her mother’s life, even the rest of her own--she would never be so completely at home as Jack was on that sofa, his head resting in the curve of their mother’s neck, his tears dampening the shoulder of her cotton dress.
As she stared at Jack, she suddenly realized that the hymn had nothing to do with her father. He hadn’t been thinking of himself at all while she sang beside the hospital bed; he was thinking of Jack. The hymn was a way of asking to see Jack, a prayer to call him home.
Julia didn’t understand what it was that made her face burn. It started with a suck of air in her chest, then a rushing flame, like gas hitting a pilot light, the heat rising to her cheeks with each exhale. She decided then and there not to sing. It was too much to ask of her. A hymn to welcome home her brother was more than should be required. She turned from her brother and mother and knew with certainty that her decision was final. She’d have the bulletins recopied to omit the song. The moment would come and go at the funeral, and she would be the only one to feel the absence. The moment came and went, and she didn’t sing.
Haddon Robinson says it best, "With Him the calf is always the fatted calf; the robe is always the best robe; the joy is always unspeakable; and the peace passes understanding. There is no grudging in God’s goodness. He does not measure His goodness by drops like a druggist filling a prescription. It comes upon in flo...
Pappy was a pleasant fellow. His face was quite drawn from age, but when he smiled, even his wrinkles seemed to smile with him. Pappy owned a pawnshop. Everyone who knew him respected and adored him. There was a room in the back of his shop where he spent time tinkering with his own precious items. He referred to the back room as "Memory Hall." In it were pocket watches, clocks, and electric trains. Pappy enjoyed spending time in Memory Hall. Sometimes, he would close his eyes to relive a sweet, simple childhood memory.
One day, Pappy was reassembling an old railroad lantern. As he polished his lantern, he heard the bell on the shop door. The bell had been in Pappy’s family for over a hundred years. He cherished it dearly. Pappy left Memory Hall to greet his customer. At first, he didn’t see anyone. His customer was shorter than the counter. Pappy said, "How can I help you?" The little girl looked at Pappy with her big brown eyes, then slowly scanned the room in search of something special. She said, "I’d like to buy a present for my grandpa. But I don’t know what to get."
Pappy began to make suggestions. "How about a pocket watch? It’s in good condition. I fixed it myself," he said. The little girl didn’t answer. Finally, she walked to the door. She wiggled the door gently to ring the bell. The little girl smiled with excitement. "This is just right," the little girl bubbled. "Momma says grandpa loves music." Just then, Pappy knew what she wanted, his bell. He didn’t want to break the little girl’s heart. "I’m sorry, but that’s not for sale. Maybe your grandpa would like a radio." The little girl looked at the radio and sighed, "No, I don’t think so."
In an effort to help her understand, Pappy told her the story of how the bell had been in his family for many years and that was why he didn’t want to sell it. The little girl said, "I guess I understand. Thank you, anyway." Suddenly, Pappy thought of how the rest of the family was gone—that was, except for his estranged daughter whom he had not seen in a decade. Pappy thought, why not pass the bell on to someone who would share it with a loved one. He said, "I’ve decided to sell the bell." The little girl, said, "Oh, thank you. Grandpa will be so happy." Pappy felt good about helping the child even though he knew he would miss the bell.
Later that evening, Pappy prepared to close up shop. He found himself thinking about the bell. He thought about the child and wondered if her grandpa liked the gift. He knew that any grandfather would cherish anything from such a precious grandchild. Just then, as he turned off the lights in Memory Hall, Pappy thought he heard his bell. But, he knew that was ridiculous, he had sold his bell. In a minute, he heard the bell again. He turned toward the door and there stood the little girl. She was ringing the bell and smiling. Pappy was puzzled, "What’s this? Have you changed your mind?" "No," she grinned. "Momma says it’s for you." Before Pappy had time to say another word, the child’s mother stepped into the doorway. Choking back her tears, she said, "Hello, Dad."
Poem: When the Model T first hit the street, It didn’t bring all heaven to its feet. And when the first computer was born, They didn’t blow Old Gabriel’s horn. There’s only one thing that we’re sure about That can make those angels jump and shout: It’s when a sinner makes the Lord his choice; That’s when the angels rejoice. Now heaven doesn’t strike up a band For any old occasion at hand; It’s got to be a special thing, to make those angels smile and sing. Now when the United States became a nation, There was no angelic celebration. But when one lost sinner comes back home, They jump for joy around the throne Larry Bryant