Over the weekend, we made a trip back to my hometown, Montgomery City, where the annual Old Threshers was the drawing card.
Old Threshers is a trip back to the past. The old steam engines were on display working like they did when they first joined farmers in the hard work that had to be done—harvesting, cutting logs into boards, and more.
And that is not all. The tractors of my childhood and even before all line up for everybody to review and remember. I always look for the Oliver 66, which is the tractor Dad taught me to drive and the one I like the best.
There are other displays and activities, but there is something about seeing that Oliver 66 and the others from my past. There is a magic that occurs when the steam whistles sound, the steam puffs up toward the clouds, and not to mention the smell of the freshly cut cedar planks.
But Old Threshers, this year, was special. I visited with old church members, cousins, and neighbors. Recognition had to be awakened. Stories had to be shared. But most important was sharing the past with the future.
For the first time, my grandchildren walked the fair grounds with me. They saw the equipment for the first time. They heard some of the stories of my parents and my childhood. And I felt my heart soar.
And the day expanded as we returned to the farm. I got to share the house with my daughter-in-law for the first time. I watched the awe as she and her son/my grandson looked at Mom’s piano. It continues to sit there waiting even though the keys are in bad shape and tuning has not been done in decades.
And the grands met their cousins! Yes, the next generation met for the first time. My kids with their cousins. My grandkids with their cousins. My brother, too, along with me and our cousins. Wow!
I know, the experience was everything to me and not so everything for everybody else. But I am reminded that family is family. I am reminded that when we expand our family by joining in new families, home never really changes.
For years, I have thought about why I was so eager to leave home after college. I have wondered why home always stays with you. I went home regularly. I really did not divorce myself from home.
But life divorced me from home. Life circumstances can distance us from the very foundation of our lives. True, I became distanced from home; but I never became distanced from the foundations taught me at home.
My parents came from different faith backgrounds. True they were both Protestants, Mom a Presbyterian and Dad a Methodist. But when they married, the decision was to be a Methodist family.
My faith journey began with their faith journey. And my faith home remained Methodist, even with a brief visit with a Presbyterian congregation.
When I returned home over the weekend, the first face I recognized was a member of that Montgomery City Methodist church. How warming it was to feel that sense of recognition and to glory in that relationship.
The recognition reminded me that we are all of one family. We may have different parents, different genetics, but the common ground of faith makes us so close to one another regardless of location or distance defined by years.
I find myself thinking about Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son:
- How many times do we walk away from the foundations of our lives thinking we could do better?
- How many times do we avoid going home?
- How many times do we ignore what we are taught, esp. about God?
- How many times does our life decisions risk poisoning our lives?
- How many times do we think we cannot go home?
The parable shared in Luke , speaks to all of us at so many different levels.
As a parent, we do our best to raise our children so they know they are loved and will always be loved. We know we have to discipline them at times. We know we have to let them grow up. We know we have to accept their decisions even if we disagree. Yet, we pray they succeed and that they come home; not permanently but emotionally.
As a child, we all know that as we grow up, we look forward to living as independently. We grow up and move on. Maybe like me, I never wanted to be labeled a teacher, marry a farmer, and stay in my childhood community. But, I also never expected to face some of the challenges I did.
Thank goodness my parents laid the foundation for me life that included God and church. I fled that farm life, but I never left the church. My life challenges certainly knocked me down, but with my faith in God, I kept going.
The story of the Prodigal Son is as much a story of me leaving and returning as it is as a parent who watches children leave. God provides unconditional love to all always. It is us who must find our way home.
Going home is tough, true. But going home warms the heart and the benefits are immeasurable.
Going home this weekend was a delight. My family that remains in Montgomery were there. My family who live outside of Montgomery, were there. My heart was warmed by all the memories, all the relationships, and all the promises of the future.
My prayer is that all of my family and friends from my childhood, from today, and from the future know that they are loved. There is enough unconditional love from God to accept all the mistakes we make, but we may not know it until we stray away.
Thank you, God, for all the love and all the grace and all the forgiveness that you provide. I hope I model it for others, too. –Amen.
Luke 15:11-32: Parable of the Lost Son
11 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. 12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.
13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. 14 About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. 15 He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. 16 The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.
17 “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, 19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’
20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.[a]’
22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, 26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on.27 ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’
28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him,29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’
31 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. 32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”