And I pray that he would unveil within you the unlimited riches of his glory and favor until supernatural strength floods your innermost being with his divine might and explosive power. Then, by constantly using your faith, the life of Christ will be released deep inside you, and the resting place of his love will become the very source and root of your life. Then you will be empowered to discover what every holy one experiences—the great magnitude of the astonishing love of Christ in all its dimensions. How deeply intimate and far-reaching is his love! How enduring and inclusive it is! Endless love beyond measurement that transcends our understanding—this extravagant love pours into you until you are filled to overflowing with the fullness of God! Ephesians 3:16-19 The Passion Translation (TPT)
A cup full and overflowing. Extravagant abundance. These are the words that fill my mind this early morning before the sun has risen. Turn out the porch light and pour a cup a coffee. The house is quiet for the first time in eleven days.
Counting. Numbers have bounced around in my brain all my waking hours these past days. How many nephews and their children can fit into which bedroom? How many to prepare a breakfast feast for? How many to reserve a table at the restaurant for? How many bowls to put out for soup?
Last night the hallways were dark and this morning there are no dogs wandering around waiting to be let out. All is quiet. All is still. The kitchen counters are almost clear of the ebb and flow of dishes from dirty to clean. I take the photograph off the refrigerator and look at it closely. "All are safe and sound," I think as I slide it back into place with its magnets.
From the photograph, seven faces smile back at me. Behind them I see homemade felt stockings hanging from the mantel in my mother's house. Out of sight to their right, I know there is the Christmas tree with redbirds and pearl garland. Seven cousins of four different mothers of seven different ages and different places; arms wrapped around each other from a distance of 20 years ago. Over the past days and nights, I have touched each one of them. My heart is full and overflowing.
I never expected that I would be the magnet to pull them all together. Their ages and interests are diverse. They dot the landscape from New York to Florida to Mississippi. Their faith walks stretch them even further; from Orthodox Jew to Methodist Minister. Yet over these days, they have all sat around my table as candles burned and conversations echoed into every room. My house was full and overflowing.
They have known loss that was unexpected. Death and separation have knocked on their door. Loss and heartbreak have threatened to topple them over. They have adjusted their expectations, held on tightly, and rerouted their course. In the midst of our chaotic gathering, I remind myself to be gentle, to be patient, to be grace-filled with my tongue.
And to be grateful. Especially this – above all things. Grateful to hold a child in my arms that my sister never got to see. Grateful to listen to the songs of the young girl my mother prayed would come to be. Grateful to have careful conversations with young men who were still young boys when their mother passed away.
I have been given this beautiful and glorious gift of living another day and now another – and I will not let them slip through my fingers without reaching out and holding on tightly – ever so tightly – to these children staring back at me out of a long ago.
And this is what I will tell you: Don't let them go. Don't let a wet towel on the floor or too many speeding tickets or another failed class push them out of your door and down a solitary path. Don't let go when they refuse to answer your calls and fail to show up at dinner time. Hold on. Reach out. Keep calling their name until they return.
Because it is worth it.
Jesus told a story we know as the parable of the prodigal son. What we don't realize in this familiar story is that the word prodigal means ‘extravagant'. And it would better be told as the story of the prodigal father. For while the son lived an extravagant life that diminished him – the father loved and forgave and celebrated with great extravagance that restored him. He stood waiting, expecting his son to return home. And when he saw him, a long-ways-off, he ran to him, embraced him, and prepared an extravagant banquet to celebrate his return.
Jesus told us – ‘This is a picture of our Father, our God – and His extravagant love. We get lost identifying with the runaway ungrateful son or the loyal responsible son who is resentful. We forget to look at the extravagant love, the open arms, the tender heart, the overflowing joy of the father.
This is my prayer, my request: May I look more like the Father. May I be giving and hopeful, optimistic and welcoming. May I be both truthful and generous. May my door be open and may I always be delighted to set one more place at the table.
As I embrace this new year, I long for a year of extravagant loving, with a heart full and overflowing.
From a long distance away, his father saw him coming, dressed as a beggar, and great compassion swelled up in his heart for his son who was returning home. So the father raced out to meet him. He swept him up in his arms, hugged him dearly, and kissed him over and over with tender love. Story from Luke 15:11-32 TPT
Reckless Love by Cory Asbury
Prodigal: generous, lavish, unsparing, abundant, giving freely
The Passion Translation (TPT) The Passion Translation®. Copyright © 2017 by BroadStreet Publishing® Group, LLC.
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