The Velveteen Equation (Part 3): Return of the Gingerbread Man


“Never cease loving a person, and never give up hope for him, for even the prodigal son who had fallen most low, could still be saved; the bitterest enemy and also he who was your friend could again be your friend; love that has grown cold can kindle”  Soren Kierkegaard

Spoiled, rotten brat! You think you can get whatever you want, and when you don’t get your way you throw a fit, make a scene, and run away……..yes, Mr. Gingerbread Man, I’m talking about you! Not content to fulfill your purpose as a son, brother, and friend, you run off into the wide world, where everywhere you turn something is waiting to eat you alive. You taunt and mock and think that you’ll always be fastest, you’ll always be free to play your games. Back at home, your mother misses you; but you never think about her, do you? You never think about anyone BUT yourself, you sorry excuse for a cookie.

In a lot of ways, the story of the Runaway Gingerbread Man reminds me of the parable of the Prodigal Son. A young man with everything decides it’s just not enough for him and leaves, but not without first disrespecting his father with his very own version of the Gingerbread Man’s “neener neener neener”. Many of us have been a prodigal in one way or another. We may never know the pain and grief we’ve caused our loved ones when we set off on our journey to “find ourselves”, or whatever you want to call it. It’s not that all such journeys are entirely selfish or wrong, but many times it is easy for us to justify the wrong things for the wrong reasons at the wrong times. The prodigal in the parable would have eventually inherited his portion, in due time, as a beloved son and cherished member of the family; but, impatient for “his rights” and not recognizing the value of what he had already been given, he took what he could get, ran away, and then made a BIG mess!

He didn’t realize it at first. None of us realize it when we’re in the middle of  “making our own decisions”, decisions that would be better labelled “another fine mess”. It takes us all awhile to realize that the sound in our ears is not applause, but jeering; the smell in our nostrils is not the perfume of success, but the stench of something else. IT happens, but it does us no good to surround ourselves with heaping piles of it in the name of individuality, now does it? OK, moving right along…..

The Prodigal Son’s story had a happy, unexpected ending. He experiences completely undeserved open-armed, open-hearted forgiveness and acceptance from the father he had wronged (as well as a supremely jealous older brother, but that is a topic for another blog post). The father in the story represents the desire of God to fully reconcile us to himself, no matter how filthy, dirty, ick-poo our lives have been previously. The message of this story is: there is room on the cross for your past, present, and even future screw-ups. The Father loves you more than he is saddened by your sin. You will never smell too much like pig for him to reach out to you.

Mr. Gingerbread Man’s story, however, has a somewhat sadder ending, as do the stories of many prodigals who stubbornly stick to their guns. He ends up being the lunch of a crafty fox, who was all too willing to take advantage of such a tasty, gullible, and foolish morsel. Let their stories be a lesson to you. Don’t be consumed by the world and its users and abusers. Run into the arms of the Father. He has been waiting for you long enough already.

Jesus continued: “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. 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.
 “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.
“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.’
 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

 “ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ”

Pinocchio’s Prize: The Velveteen Equation (Part 2)


“How long should you try? Until.”  Jim Rohn

We all have dreams. Some of us seem to have to work so much harder and longer than others to reach our goals, however. Consider, if you will, Pinocchio. Incomplete, or so he thought, he was loved, cherished, and cared for by a kind old man who wanted a son. Pinocchio had much that many would covet; but he wanted more.

Its funny, I’m sure, when we hear about some people and their dreams and then watch the choices they make. Some people want to be debt-free, but continue to make poor financial decisions. Some people long to be married, but make themselves so unpleasant that it would be unlikely for anyone to want to be their friend, let alone their spouse for a lifetime. On and on it goes with the human race. We are so ridiculously foolish sometimes, it seems that it would take nothing short of an act of God to turn us around and get us going on the right path again.

But wait, who is this little fellow tagging along wherever Pinocchio goes? We could all use a tangible Jimminy Cricket sometimes. Like Pinocchio, we often get distracted along the way by things that seem easier, more popular, less restrictive, and more fun. Somehow, sooner or later……many times much later, we realize that none of these things was worth the time we invested or the many things (and people) we lost along the way. It’s easy to picture Pinocchio, locked in a cage in Stromboli’s wagon as it rolls down the road while his father, Gepetto, trudges through the rain and the dirty streets looking for him. How embarrassing it was when he was caught in his lies and truancy and procrastination and idleness, time and time again.  After all that he put himself and his father through, Pinocchio finally made good by persevering, hoping, and ultimately sacrificing himself and his selfish desires to save his father from the dreaded whale, Monstro.

What is the prize that Pinocchio won? Was it his long-awaited dream of becoming a real boy, or was it something else entirely?

“And because you [really] are [His] sons, God has sent the [Holy] Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba (Father)! Father! Therefore, you are no longer a slave (bond servant) but a son; and if a son, then [it follows that you are] an heir by the aid of God, through Christ. But at that previous time, when you had not come to be acquainted with and understand and know the true God, you [Gentiles] were in bondage to gods who by their very nature could not be gods at all [gods that really did not exist].” Galatians 4:6-8

(To Be Continued…)

The Velveteen Equation (Part 1)


“If we treated everyone we meet with the same affection we bestow upon our favorite cat, they, too, would purr.” Martin Delany

Can you remember the story of the Velveteen Rabbit? If not, let me sum it up for you: Once upon a time, there was a lonely little stuffed bunny who belongs to a little boy, who loved him very much. The bunny is the little boy’s constant companion, until one day when the little boy is stricken with scarlet fever and the bunny as well as the rest of the boy’s belongings are put in a big pile to be burned to stop any further spreading of the disease. The little bunny is rescued by a fairy who has watched his love and faithfulness for many years and at last, the little bunny is granted his fondest wish: to be “real” and hop around with the other rabbits and live out his life. (OK, the original story is much more charming, but that is the jist.)

As some people know, and many others do not, I was adopted. However, I did not begin life as an unwanted child. More to the point, I was a surprise! My birth parents were older when I was born, my mother 42 and my father had reached the ripe old age of 71 when I appeared on the scene. (The many implications of this particular age difference and the fact of my birth were things I had to come to terms with as a preteen in typical “eww-gross” fashion; but I digress, the fact is that I owe my existence to unusual circumstances.) As I grew, their years advanced until a chance meeting with a logging truck and the car my father was driving when I was seven. Fatherless, I continued living with my mother until the age of sixteen, when I received a call while in Denmark as an exchange student. Cancer. Terminal. I chose to return home. My mother appeared diminished and grey, dark circles under her eyes when I saw her at last. Less than a month full of anguish and sleepless night trying vainly to nurse her back to semi-health as she slipped away from me and her body gave in to advanced kidney failure, she died. I was all alone.

Others who have faced the prospects and unique challenges of being orphaned, will understand the many times I felt isolated, misunderstood, and strange, among other things. It is bad enough to be alone as an adult. As a child, especially an extremely sheltered and backward child such as I was, it is devastating in the utmost. It is difficult to take in a child whose been broken. I have friends who have recently adopted a child from China, and they have learned about many of these issues already. “Difficult” is a nice word for the way I behaved that year as I lived with the kind family friends who became my guardians.

I began to daydream about belonging to the family of a friend of mine.  Little did I know, at the same time that I was daydreaming, my guardian was praying about whether it would be better for everyone if I lived with this other family and the “daydream family” was thinking the same thing about me! I remember the day they came to pick me up. There were tears in our eyes as we hugged on the doorstep. It was the beginning of a brand new adventure.

Adventures do not always take the turns we anticipate. Part of the journey involves taking what you’re faced with and learning to adapt, accommodate, and worth through it. Joining a complete family, especially as a needy, spoiled teen has many pitfalls and challenges. It would be difficult to say who has a more difficult time of it, actually, the adopters or the adoptee.

It has been a long journey. The love of my adoptive family has seen me through the recovery of a divorce following a terrible marriage, single motherhood, remarriage, and the births of my 5th and 6th children. Their love has at times confused me, as I pulled away, and felt isolated for my efforts. I am now well into my adult years and still occasionally struggle with what it means to be part of a family, included in something I didn’t begin. The bottom line is that love makes us real. Love makes us belong.

“NOW WHAT I mean is that as long as the inheritor (heir) is a child and under age, he does not differ from a slave, although he is the master of all the estate; but he is under guardians and administrators or trustees until the date fixed by his father. So we [Jewish Christians] also, when we were minors, were kept like slaves under [the rules of the Hebrew ritual and subject to] the elementary teachings of a system of external observations and regulations. But when the proper time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born subject to [the regulations of] the Law, to purchase the freedom of (to ransom, to redeem, to atone for) those who were subject to the Law, that we might be adopted and have sonship conferred upon us [and be recognized as God’s sons].” Galatians 4: 1-5 AMP

(To Be Continued…)