Me:  I am going to help you with those plants today.

Prodigal:  Good, I could use some teamwork!

Me:  Teamwork is better than standing alone.

This is from the book The Cross of Christ by John R. W. Stott

The concept of substitution may be said, then, to lie at the heart of both sin and salvation.  For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man.  Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be;  God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be.  Man claims prerogatives which belong to God alone;  God accepts penalties which belong to man alone.

We need reminders of this all the time because our flesh becomes proud and we began to think we can do things that only God can do.  Yes, the Lord uses us to help people, but really the change of a person’s heart, and spirit can only be completed by Christ.  This is not to condemn us but it is to turn us to Christ, and put out hearts and spirits where they need to be.

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness; according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.

Psalm 51:1

Jennifer Van Allen

Looking For Love

Prodigal:  This is a perfect spot for a story.

Me:  Let me share one then.

She could hardly breathe.  Her heart was racing and it was as if all time stood still.  She tried to think how the events unfolded into this.  She remembers now.  She has spent over two years with a man, and he ended up leaving instead of marrying her.  She was devastated and not only that she was already older when she started to date him and now two years later she was not a like the other young women who were seeking husbands.

She quietly slipped into a depression.  Her days overlapped each other like the waves on the shore, not really noticing when one began and the other started.  The joy was gone.  She had been one to always look at the birds and now she looked only at the ground as she moved from one place to the other.  She was unsure of how to interact with others after the failure.  She was unsure of how to plan, and hope for a different life after the depression engulfed her like a fog on a spring morning.

So she had tried to focus on work.  Work was growing her herbs and then taken them to the market and trying to sell.  Growing the herbs was not the hard part.  She had a one room house with a flat roof.  She would grow everything on the roof, and she lived in the room below.  It was simple, but enough for her.  She had a stove, one bed, and one lamp that gave her house a comfortable way for her to work.  She tried to keep the floors swept, but spent most of her time was in the garden if she could.  She would look at her plants everyday, and bring fresh clippings to the market.  Items she did not sell she tried to use in her cooking for that night.

The market though was her struggle.  She would often see women their younger than her, pregnant, and buying from her.  She struggles to make small talk, and she never was as good at it as others in the market was.  This caused her to make less but she did not really mind.

This had become her average day, when she met him.  He approached her herbs and attempted to look over them.  It was rare to see a man in market.  She was wandering why he was there among the women but she still did not attempt to have a conversation with him.  He had shown interest in my Hyssop that day.  He tried to engage me in conversation, but I barely looked at him, and made small talk.  He decided to buy some anyway and he was gone.

A week later he came back, he said that my hyssop had the most flavor of any he had tried before, and wanted to know my secret.  I refused to tell my secret because I knew then I would lose an advantage at the market.  He laughed at me as we bantered about the secret back and forth and was gone.

That started the friendship.  How could I say no to a friendship when my heart was full of despair.  How did I have the strength to stop something that become a small bit of joy in my overall despondent days.  I never meant for it to be more.  I really did not, but when you find some joy, you find warmth to heal the pain, it is hard to turn that down.

Over the months, I learned a lot about him.  His wife had been ill after the birth of their second child and that is why he took to shopping for her.  She could not leave the house.  So he found time in his day to start going to the market.  He was also depressed.  He had married his wife three years earlier and already had two kids.  He found that she was beautiful but she was lacking in inner beauty.  She was passive aggressive and she was often selfish.  She never really tried to engage him in communication.

That was something we did really well.  We communicated and could often guess what the other person was saying.  This is how the friendship continued and his wife didn’t seem to improve or get worse.  Then one day when he was joking about my hyssop again, he begged to see my plant so maybe he could guess the secret.  I laughed it off at first.  Then he did that quick smile out of the corner of his mouth and I knew he was serious.  I thought for a second, and then thought why not?

The next day he came over at dawn when their was still dusk outside and I took him to the roof and showed him my plants.  He laughed and said he had no idea what my secret was.  We went inside, and that is when things happened and their was no return.  My hair was loose around my eyes and I was just bending over and picked up one dried herb that had fallen to the floor.  As soon as I stood back up, he had stepped in closer.  He swept my hair behind my cheek and his fingers gently fell over the rest of my hair.  It was a very intimate gesture.  It took my breath away. He saw that too, and before I knew it we had embraced and that is how the affair started.

It became a weekly event always at the same place around the same time.  This went on for several months.  Then one day my neighbor Martha spotted him as he was leaving.  I saw her look on her face.  I was frantic with worry because he still had a wife.  I ran over and tried to distract her, and ask her how she was feeling.  She immediately started attacking me verbally with accusations.  I was overwhelmed with trying to get her to quite down so finally I told her I would tell her a secret if she promised to keep it a secret.  She said she would, and almost seemed to have such joy over the idea of having a secret.  I then told her about Jonathan and me.  I told her she had to keep it a secret though and how it was not going to last anyway.  She promised and even seemed to be nicer to me.  I talked to her here and there for the next month but she seemed to be friendly, and seemed to keep the secret.  It was not till later that I found out the whole truth.

She had gone to Simon, he was one of the Pharisees that was very strict.   She had told the secret to gain favor with him.  She betrayed me just so she could look like she was in favor with someone in position.  They then went to Jonathan and accused him.  He was afraid, so he quickly made a deal to turn me in so that he would not have to suffer.  So they made a plan that morning that he would come to my house and would gain my affections, and then the Pharisees would have caught me with evidence.

When they caught me they dragged me through the dirty streets to the temple.  There was  a man there.  I felt his presence before I could really see him.  See this was part of them trying to trick this man.

They immediately told this man Jesus that I was taken in the very act of adultery.  They reminded him that according to the Law of Moses that I should be stoned so they wanted to know what he said.

I will never forget that moment.  I was a dead woman, no hope for my life.  I was guilty of the worst sin, and shame of everything I had become.  Why would it matter what He said?

Then he slowly stooped down and began writing.  Everyone was dead quiet.  He wrote guilty in the sand.  They again were asking to stone me.  He then said the most shocking answer.  He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

Then he slowly stooped down and started writing what will your punishment be, and started writing sins down.  Starting with the eldest to the last one by one they were convicted of their own conscience and they left.

It was only me, and Jesus then when Jesus finally looked up.  He then looked at me and asked me where are the man who have accused me.  His voice was a confident smooth voice filled with the most compassion I had every heard.  When he asked me the question, I knew this man loved me.  How, because he had just saved me.

I answered and said no man has accused me.  He said neither do I, go and sin no more.

At that moment I left in a daze.  I was not only alive, but I was loved by this man who was Son of God.  How did I know?  His spirit told me when he forgave me. It was a warmth that was deeper then the sun on your skin at noon.  His spirit filled you with a peace and stillness that made you want to cry out in joy.

I knew I would never sin again.  I knew my life was now living for Jesus.  Now, I would not be in darkness anymore.  I would walk in the light always knowing that everyday would be gift.

John 8:7

So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

Jennifer Van Allen

The Bible Is Reliable


Me:  We just discussed a lot about Jesus.

Prodigal:  Yes, but I heard people say that the bible is not reliable.

Me:  Maybe this can help.


This is from the book The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel


World-class scholar Bruce Metzger said that compared with other ancient documents, there is an unprecedented number of New Testament manuscripts and that they can be dated extremely close to the original writings.  The modern New Testament is 99.5 percent free of textual discrepancies, with no major Christian doctrines in doubt.  The criteria used by the early church to determine which books should be considered authoritative have ensured that we possess the best records about Jesus.


But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.

Hebrews 10:39


Jennifer Van Allen

Can’t Say Sorry

Me:  Your friend is walking away.

Prodigal:  I know I probably need to say sorry.

Me:  Maybe you need to apologize.

This is from the book God’s Generals by Roberts Liardon

Be careful of the person, whether they’re a member of your family, whether you work with them, whether they are an employee, be careful of a person who can’t say , “I am sorry.”  You will find that person very self-centered.

“That is the reason you have heard me say ten thousand times that the only person Jesus can’t help, the only person for whom there is no forgiveness of sins is the person who will not say, “I’m sorry for my sins, ”  ….Such a self centered person usually draws disease to themselves like a magnet.”

Limit your time with toxic people.  They have not developed a relationship with Christ and the relationship cannot have growth and they can not work on moving forward.

Psalms 147:3

He heals the brokenhearted binds up their wounds.

Jennifer Van Allen


Me:  I think you need to have wisdom in where you walk Prodigal.

Prodigal:  I know that is a warning and I should follow it.

Me:  Yes, we should listen to warnings.

This is from the book Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders

If knowledge is the accumulation of facts, and intelligence the development of reason, wisdom is heavenly discernment.  It is insight into the heart of things.  Wisdom involves knowing God and the subtleties of the human heart.  More than knowledge, it is the right application of knowledge in moral and spiritual matters, in handling dilemmas, in negotiating complex relationships.  “Wisdom is nine-tenths a matter of being wise in time,” said Theodore Roosevelt.  Most of us are “too often wise after the event.”

Don’t regret afterward, but following wisdom before hand.  Take some quiet time and make sure that this is from God.  In the quiet time He will give you a peace and stillness and then you know that this is from Him.  In all ways seek His path and He will direct you!

Then Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Acts 2:38

Jennifer Van Allen

A Break

Prodigal: This is a nice rest.

Me: Yes it is.

How was I going to do it? That was the question. I was not going to know the answer till the day was over. This day was crammed with appointments, and no availability for breaks. I knew looking at my calendar that God was going to have to give me the energy to get through the week, and still be able to administer to all the people He placed in front of me.

I knew God, and I knew He would show up. How many times have I cried out to the Lord for Him to give me strength, and wisdom for the next hour. How many times had He provided. It was something that I valued a lot about our relationship. How He would be there constantly to make sure His people were taking care of. It also showed just how much He loved His people.

Just the day before I was engaged with a non christian therapist discussing how they were feeling burned out. They have only been a therapist for a year. The therapist was already feeling over whelmed. I was concerned seeing the signs that many face. The face of being affected by so much, and yet unable to handle the burdens. If all of this continues and is not resolved, I knew that I was looking at another therapist who would run from the field, and not look back.

At the same time I was looking at my schedule and knew my schedule had 25 percent more people than they did. The big difference was I could rely on Christ, and they could not because they did not believe in Christ. They could not understand that believing in Christ is not just a religion but an invitation for support from a loving God.

I knew some how God would provide for me this week. I just did not know how. I am writing this now, because the Lord did show up. This is a testimony of how He did. Here I am with a break that was provided by Him. I had 3 appointments reschedule so that I could have a long period of stillness. I got some work done, and even had time to slow down.

Does God care about how fatigued you feel? Does God care about the demands you have placed on you? Does God care about how your calendar being overbooked. Yes, He does! Often in church we are told to always be busy, but this is not biblical. He provided rest with no work at times. A great example is in Kings 17.

Elijah Fed by Ravens

Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.”

So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.

Elijah for a period of time was given a stillness by God. The stillness did not mean He was punished. The stillness did not mean He did not love God, and was not a good servant.

During this stillness, He was to be less active. He was not to say yes to everyone. He was also not to even worry about food. He separated Elijah and during the time of separation He provided for Elijah. Not all down times are bad. Not all down times mean that we have gotten off course. God can use those times to grow us, and also provide for us. God made sure that Elijah would have food and He did not have to provide it. He had a plan for others to work it out.

On this day God has a plan to handle your stress. He knows how to figure out all those demands. He would like us to ask Him, and then wait for His answer.

The answer may be a separation, but He will provide during the separation, and it will give you a chance to see how God may be there for you!

1 Corinthians 15:56-57

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jennifer Van Allen

Humble Yourself


Me:  That was a nice ride!

Prodigal:  Yes, and I loved the time we spent together.

Me:  Let’s encourage each other now.


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


Rather than racing into the limelight, we need to accept our role in the shadows.  I’m serious here.  Don’t promote yourself.  Don’t push yourself to the front.  Don’t drop hints.  Let someone else do that.  Better yet, let God do that.

If you’re great, trust me, the word will get out.  You’ll be found…in God’s time.  If you’re necessary for the plan, God will put you in the right place just the precise time.  God’s work is not about us; it’s His production, start to finish.  So back off.  Let Him pull the curtains and turn on the stage lights.  He’ll lay hold of an Ananias or Barnabas, who’ll come and find you at your most vulnerable point and lift you over the wall.  Or He may choose you to be one of the nameless, lesser-known individuals who make the difference for someone else.  Your part, pure and simple:  Humble yourself.


And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

Luke 6:41


Jennifer Van Allen

The Missionary Heart


Me:  Looks like you are on a journey.

Prodigal:  I am.

Me: This is for missionaries or others just living day to day.


It is found in The Missionary Heart


Care more than some think is wise.

Risk more than some think is safe.

Dream more than some think is practical.

Expect more than some think is possible.


There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.

Ecclesiastes 1:11


Jennifer Van Allen