God Promotion

Prodigal:  You are talking a lot about yourself today.

Me:  Maybe I should not focus so much on myself.

Prodigal:  You do not want to become prideful.

This is from the book A Man of Grace and Grit:  Paul by Charles Swindoll

We love to promote and independent spirit without ever considering the value of time-forged character.  God never promotes like that.  God takes His time.  When God plans to use us, He puts us through the paces.  He allows a certain amount of suffering.  God may use the strong, stubborn, independent individualists in the world , but not long-term.  He much prefers the humble, the broken, the bruised, the humble, even the crushed.  He works more effectively in the lives of people who’ve learned they can’t make it on their own, especially those who acknowledge they desperately need God and others.  

Keep yourself small.  Keep yourself as the one who needs Christ the most.  You quickly turn to pride and can quickly make decisions without Christ.  So remain as one who is desperately dependent on God.

For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.

2 Corinthians 1:20

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org

The Service of the Heart

Prodigal:  This place just has a calming peace with it.

Me:  I know,  to stop and pray would be amazing!

Prodigal:  That would be wonderful.

This is from the book

How Firm a Foundation:  A Gift of Jewish Wisdom for Christians and Jews by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein

The reason why we pray, said William James, is simply that we cannot help praying.  Prayer is the most natural and universal human urge, man’s spiritual ladder linking him with ultimacy itself.  It springs almost instinctively from the human condition in which man, a finite being, encounters a personal, infinite, and loving God, one who hears man’s cries and is deeply concerned for his welfare.  Prayer represents the language and music of our souls.  Its enrapturing power penetrates to the very core of our being.  Prayer gives expression to man’s longing for devekut (“union with the divine”) and to his feelings of awe and wonder over God’s creation.  It stems from man’s quest to encounter the living God and from his thirst to communicate with him.  It flows from our abiding faith in God’s immanence and from our unswerving trust that “the Lord is near to all who call upon him …in truth” (Ps. 145:18).  The mystical tradition describes the purifying, regenerative magic of prayer in the following manner:  “As the flame clothes the black, sooty clod in a garment of fire and releases the heat imprisoned therein, even so does prayer clothe a man in a garment of holiness, evoke the light and fire implanted within him by his Maker, illumine his whole being, and unite the Lower and the Higher Worlds.”  Indeed, “would that man would pray all day” (B.T., Ber 21a).

And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ.  This is the true God, and eternal life.  1 John 5:20

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodgialpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org

My Friend

Me: I am happy that the Lord has blessed this day.

Prodigal: You can always find a blessing in every day.

Sometimes it hurts you, that you can’t do it for them. You can see the other side. You can see how this will bring in peace, but you can’t do it for them. As my friend described her sorrow with held back tears, I knew she was struggling just to share with me. I also knew that the answer was grace. She had to receive grace.

My friend was dealing with performance issues. The years had added on this idea that she need to perform to receive anything. She needed to be the best or it did not count. The problem that keeps creating a road block is that she is not perfect. She does not attain where she thinks she needs to be. What is on the other side of that road block is grace. She just needs to reach out and, believe that it is real.

One thing unfortunately that I see in Christians, is a lot of talk of grace but they do not believe it is real. Grace is every where in the christian culture. There will be writing, talking and memorizing scripture on grace in almost every church. Why is it not believed?

I think it is because we know of Christians we ourselves have approached. When we reached out with an expected heart, fretful spirit and pleading eyes, the results were a refusal to give us grace. Then we our spirits were crushed.

Confusion may set in because you hear so much talk about grace around you. To reconcile the tangling of emotion, you start to ponder, maybe you did something wrong and forgiveness is needed. That turns into a different story. Condemnation and shame will be thrown at you and you some how leave thinking that if only you performed well enough. Maybe then you could have earned grace.

The way to overcome the fluster of emotions is to turn to Jesus. The Jesus I see really did give grace. The Christians I had run into had their eyes and ears closed. They really did not understand it. So why would I expect them to believe that I would really give them grace. They had never see it among themselves.

So here I was with my friend, struggling with no peace in her heart. The overwhelming since of wrong of who she was, kept drowning out the joy. She had been caught in the same cycle of condemnation, shame and confusion.

She didn’t really believe grace was good enough for her. She really did not believe she could receive that much love, if she only reached out.

I couldn’t do it for her. I can’t make her believe grace is real. I keep praying for her. I noticed that some days are better than others. I noticed that sometimes she has peace. Other days performance is the focus and it tears her spirit in shreds because her performance cannot solve it.

She still has not reached out for grace yet. I am waiting for that day. I am waiting because I will rejoice with her. I will rejoice that finally she really does see what love is all about and she will see that her identity is in the grace and love of Christ.

I know she will get there. In till then, I will sorrow when she sorrows and weep when she weeps. I will also be the one rejoicing as she rejoices.

Isaiah 30:21

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org

From Guilt to Love

Prodigal:  The sunshine feels good on my face.

Me:  Yes, we are need of some light at times.

Prodigal:  Jesus is light.

Me:  That He is.

This is from the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan

Most Christians have been taught in church or by their parents to set aside a daily time for prayer and Scripture reading.  It’s what we are supposed to do, and so for a long time it’s what I valiantly attempted.  When I didn’t, I felt guilty.

Over time I realized that when we love God, we naturally run to Him–frequently and zealously.  Jesus didn’t command that we have a regular time with Him each day.  Rather, He tells us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  He called this the “first and greatest commandment”  (Matt. 22:37-38).  The results are intimate prayer and study of His Word.  Our motivation changes from guilt to love.

God wants your love and He is not that concerned with any perfection that you think you can give Him.

Ye are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.  Matthew 5:14

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org

The Man In White

Me:  Prodigal:  Watch out for snakes out there.

Prodigal:  I will, I don’t want to take chances.

Me:  That is a wise move.

This is from the book  Where Angels Walk by Joan Wester Anderson

Years ago the Durrance family, natives of southwestern Florida, moved to a house in a partially completed subdivision, once farmland.  Set apart by side roads, the Durrance house was the only dwelling on their street, and their vast lot was surrounded by woodsy grass, palmetto clumps, and drainage ditches.

Even without a telephone, Debbie Durrance felt comfortable in the isolated brushland, but she was apprehensive about letting her children roam at will.  Things could happen—kids could get hurt in places where their cries couldn’t be heard.  And there had been several reports of rattlesnakes in the area; their pets had even been bitten.  “Noise and traffic scare rattlers,”  Debbie explains, “but they’re very much at home in a quiet area like ours.”

Still, one lazy Sunday afternoon just before Easter, when twelve-year old Mark decided to wander the land with the BB gun and his dog, Debbie agreed.  She started dinner dishes, enjoying the peace and quiet of the mild day.

Mark was enjoying the sunshine too.  Spying a bird in a clump of palm, he leaped over a drainage ditch for a closer view, landed on something movable–and felt a burst of agony as if his foot had exploded.  In horror, he realized that a huge rattlesnake was hanging on to his foot, puncturing his shoe right below the ankle.  Mark had never felt pain this intense.  And the snake’s fangs seemed to be stuck in his ankle!  Through a haze, Mark saw his dog growling and snapping at the snake, which eventually released its grip and slithered away.

But the rattler’s deadly venom had entered at the main vein in Mark’s leg, the worst place for a bite.  By now, that vein was carrying poison through Mark’s body, attacking every system.  Horrified, Mark realized that his strength was ebbing quickly, and he could barely walk.  That 150 yards home might as well be 150 miles.  He was going to die out here–and his family didn’t even know he was hurt.

Debbie was putting away the dishes when she heard the front door open and her older son shout, “Mark, what’s wrong?”

In horror, she heard Mark answer, “I’ve been rattlesnake-bit.”  She raced to the living room, just as Mark fell to the floor.  Pulling off his shoe as Buddy ran for his father, Debbie saw the foot already swollen and purple, and she smelled the same musky odor that she had noticed when her pets had been bitten.  It was true–a snake had bitten him.  And it was not a simple flesh wound.  Debbie began to tremble.  Without a phone, they would have to drive Mark seventeen miles to the nearest emergency center.  Would there be time?  Not my child, God, she prayed.  Please, not Mark!

Her husband, Bobby raced in and picked up his son.  The family ran to their truck and sped down the highway.  Mark was already having convulsions, and his breathing grew fainter.  The only thing Debbie could do in the tense and silent truck cab was pray.

As they neared the emergency center, however, steam floated from the truck’s hood.  It was overheating!  “Bobby, what are we going to do if it stops?”  Debbie asked in panic, but it was already too late.  Bobby braked for another car and the engine died.  The Durrances were in the middle of traffic, but although Bobby leaped from the cab and tried to flag someone down, vehicles just kept going around them.

Then an old compact car pulled over.  The driver was a Haitian farmworker who didn’t speak English, but the familys’ frantic actions told him all he needed to know.  Debbie and Buddy dragged Mark into the car.  “The driver sped off, following my pointing and wild gestures, and we arrived at the emergency center just a short time later,”  Debbie says.

At the center, a team attempted to stabilize Mark.  “Usually a snakebite could be treated at an emergency center,”  Debbie explains.  “But because the venom in Mark’s leg had hit a main vein, he was being poisoned at a more rapid rate and needed special care.”  By the time an ambulance had been summoned to take him to the nearest hospital in Naples, ten miles away, Mark had lapsed into a coma.

For the next twelve hours the Naples hospital staff worked on Mark.  Debbie and Bobby sensed that the team didn’t think their son would survive.  Debbie continued to pray.

During the next few days, every part of Mark’s body stopped functioning except his heart.  The venom bloated him, swelling his eyes so tightly closed that his lashes were barely visible.  His kidneys failed.  A respirator moved his lifeless lungs up and down.  Internal hemorrhaging caused blood to seep not only from his ears, mouth, and eyes but also from his pores; he required transfusions of eighteen pints of blood before the nightmare had ended.  There was a ninety percent chance he would lose his leg, and it swelled so large that eventually the doctors slashed it from top to bottom to relieve the pressure.  Every new symptom was worse than the last.

Debbie sat for hours by his bedside, praying aloud and talking to her son.  “I hoped Mark might hear my words to him and to God.”  she says.  “I wanted him to know that I believed he would live.”

Miraculously, Mark began to improve.  Gradually he emerged from the coma and began writing to his parents on a tablet.  Then one day the doctors took him off the respirator.  And though his voice was scratchy, Mark began to tell them of his terrible ordeal.

“It was a rattler.  It stuck on my shoe and wouldn’t let go….”

“But where were you?”  Mark’s father wanted to know.

“Out in the fields, next to the ditch.”

“But that’s at least 150 yards!”

“He must have been much closer,”  one of the doctors said, shaking his head.  “Mark could never have walked that far.  There was too much venom in his system–he would have been unconscious right away.”

And there were thirteen steps up the front of the house to the living room.  How had this terrible wounded boy managed to climb them?

“The man in white helped me,”  Mark explained, in answer to their questions.

“Man? What man?  Debbie asked.

“The man.  He was just….there.  When I knew I couldn’t make it to the house, he picked me up and carried me.”

“What did he look like?”  Debbie felt a tingle on the back of her neck.

“I never saw his face, only from his shoulders down.  But he had on a white robe and his arms were real strong.  He reached down and picked me up, and I was hurting so bad that I just sort of leaned my head on him.  I felt calm.”

“Did he say anything, Mark?”

“He talked to me in a deep voice,”  Mark answered.  “He told me I was going to be real sick, but not to worry.  Then he carried me up the stairs and I didn’t see him again.”

A man in white…. Debbie didn’t know what to say.  Had her son dreamed the whole thing?  But how had he gotten home?

Mark was in the hospital for nine weeks.  Later he had numerous grafts to rebuild the muscle and tissue at the back of his leg.  But doctors expect him to suffer no permanent damage.

Behold the Lord thy God hath set the land before thee:  go up and possess it, as the Lord God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged.

Deuteronomy 1:21

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org

The First Time He Picked Me Up

 

Prodigal:  There goes the trolley!

Me:  Yes, which is good timing because I have a trolley story.

 

This comes from the book Chicken Soup for the Soul:  Angels and Miracles

 

When I was five years old we lived in Brussels.  Dad’s work with Pan American World Airways took us to many parts of the world, but for the first six years of my life, we lived in Belgium.  Our house was a three-story, brick-fronted place on a little cobblestone street.  Entrance into and out of that dead-end street was through an enormous stone archway.

From the windows of our house I could look toward the end of that street, through the archway, to the ever-busy four-lane roadway that lay just beyond.  Trolley cars on tacks used to speed to and fro on that road, and the automobile traffic was endless.  Under the shadows of the archway was a candy shop run by an elderly couple.

I used to walk to the little shop on my own several times each week, and each time one of the elderly proprietors must have wondered how I had managed to leave my house without being seen by my own parents.

One gray and gloomy morning, I snuck out again.  Dad was at work at the airport and Mom must have been upstairs doing something.  That busy roadway beckoned me.  This time I didn’t go to the little shop.  Instead, I stood on the curb of that four-lane road, wondering what lay beyond.

I started to run across the road and over the trolley tracks.  But I hadn’t looked both ways, and a trolley was speeding down the second set of tracks from the opposite direction.  I actually ran right into the side of one of the trolley carriages.  The force of the impact threw me backwards several feet, right back onto the first set of tracks I had just crossed and into the path of yet another speeding trolley.  I remember seeing the growing red stain on the front of my shirt and the stream of blood as it gushed from my nose.  It felt as if my face had been shattered.  I also remember looking up to my left and seeing the oncoming trolley’s driver, his face frozen in fear.  He couldn’t stop in time.

Just then a strong pair of arms lifted me from the tracks and held me tight,  right between the two speeding trolleys, in the middle of those two sets of tracks.  The voice was clear and distinct, sounding as if it emanated from the inside of a hollow tunnel, yet somehow soothing and calming, “Be still,” it said, “Be still.”  A car slammed on its brakes and came to a screeching halt somewhere on the road behind me.  I thought I heard someone shouting something in French in the distance.

Once the trolleys had passed, those arms carried me back to the sidewalk and put me down right at the door of the little candy shop.  I looked up to see the man who had saved me, but no one was there.  No one was anywhere for at least a full block all the way around.  A few pedestrians could be seen walking about a hundred feet away.  One of them was pointing at me and whispering to her companion, but that was it.  Another female pedestrian started to run in my direction, her arms outstretched, her mouth wide open in a silent scream, the look of shock and utter befuddlement clearly written on her countenance, but she stopped short and stared, unable to fathom what she had just witnessed.

I was stunned and unable to speak.  There was no blood at all, not even on my shirt.  I touched my face, my nose, felt inside my mouth with my hand.  Everything felt normal, with no pain or discomfort of any kind.  I opened the door to the candy shop and the little bell tinkled as I walked inside.

The elderly shop owner had his hand over his mouth and his eyes were as wide as saucers.  “Comme?”  he asked, “How?”  He quickly walked around from behind the counter and took my hand.  He let me fill a paper bag with as many sweets as I could carry and walked me back to my parents’ house at the end of the street.

I saw him looking up and down the cobblestone road in all directions, as if for an explanation.  Tears were running down his face.  It was the first time I ever remember seeing a man openly crying.  He and my mother spoke for several minutes, and from that movement on my movements were severely restricted.  I was never again allowed to venture out onto that four-lane roadway with those two trolley tracks.

 

John Elliott

 

Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.

Matthew 25:13

 

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org

 

 

Getting to Know God

Prodigal:  I want to know God.

Me:  That is a good place to start.

Prodigal:  Where do I go from here.

Me:  Maybe this will help.

This is from the book Reaching for the Invisible God by Philip Yancey

Indeed, I see many parallels between getting to know God and getting to know a human person.  I first learn a person’s name.  Something in his personality attracts me to him.  I spend time with my new friend, learning what activities we have in common.  I give gifts and make small sacrifices for that friend.  I do things to please my friend that I wouldn’t do otherwise.  I share happy times and sad times; we laugh together and weep together.  I reveal my deepest secrets.  I take risks of relationship.  I make commitments.  I fight and argue, then reconcile.  All these stages of relationship apply to God as well.

And this love, that we walk after his commandments.  This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.

2 John 1:6

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org

Comfort Me

Prodigal: There is comfort in a rocking chair.

Me: Amen to that!

Isaiah 40:1

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. I read those words in my bible at work. Yes Lord, you call us toward your people.

These words were spoken from God’s prophet to His people Israel originally. He was repeating the commandment because the prophet wanted the people to understand what God was trying to show them. God wanted to be comfort to His people.

Have you seen someone’s heart who is hurting this week? If you left your house I know you have. The hurting heart has many looks. It appears as sadness, a cold stare, an aggressive word or the actions of rejection. Sometimes a person is vulnerable long enough to state out loud that they just need comfort. More often than not we have to wade thru the walls and deflections to determine what broke the heart in the first place.

This is what the world of counseling looks like. You may be physically making, improving or developing structures. I am finding hurting hearts. Some of you are dealing with the physical hearts. There are tests, blood work and appointments to make at an office or another physicians office. Or maybe your world is virtually. The computer you work on is always in front of you. It may have a graph or word document in front of you at all times. Who thinks about hearts when the world is so black and white in front of your eyes.

God uses us all. God has purpose in it all.

Today though as I begin to start sorting emotions, and pasts and spirits that are discouraged, my focus is on something else.

I need comfort for my heart. I need to cry out to the Lord. I need to know that the God of the impossible is there in this moment.

He shows up and let’s me know that I am more valuable than a sparrow. He lets me know that I do not have to do anything alone. There is not a step I took that I was alone. My steps have been with Him beside me.

Why God do I grow weary at times?

My child it is because you have ceased to look at me. You have forgotten the Love I have proclaimed over you from the minute you were in your mother’s womb. You have forgotten that my love is not conditioned on how well you perform. You have forgotten that I receive joy in just the unique person you are. You have forgotten how much my eyes are upon you.

I am sorry God…..

My child you are forgiven whenever you ask for it.

God you are amazing!

My child so are you!

God show others your love.

My child don’t you know that is what you are going to do today. People will know my love and they will see it in your spirit.

God I can’t do that alone.

My child, my spirit will show you the way.

God I’m ready.

My child so am I.

2 Corinthians 1:3

Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort.

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org