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Me: Beautiful morning, Prodigal!
Prodigal: Thank you, I decided to take a walk and I am chatting with one of my neighbors.
Me: Good to stop and talk some time and just get to know the neighbors that you have.
Prodigal: Yeah, in fact I was just telling her about some of you stories.
Me: Well I do have a story about a community I could share.
Prodigal: We would both love to hear it!

In Dakota, Kathleen Norris writes: “A Benedictine sister from the Philippines once told me what her community did when some sisters took to the streets in the popular revolt against Marcos’ regime. Some did not think it proper for nuns to demonstrate in public, let alone risk arrest. In a group meeting that began and ended with prayer, the sisters who wished to continue demonstrating explained that this was for them a religious obligation; those who disapproved also had their say. Everyone spoke; everyone heard and gave counsel. “It was eventually decided that the nuns who were demonstrating should continue to do so; those who wished to express solidarity but were unable to march would prepare food and provide medical assistance to demonstrators, and those who disapproved would pray for everyone. The sisters laughed and said, “If one of the conservative sisters was praying that we young, crazy ones would come to our senses and stay off the streets that was okay. We were still a community.”

I like this story because it really shares what happens in many “communities”. Communities could mean work department, families, church, small group, neighborhood association and any organization that you attend. If you are around the same people long enough then you will find different opinions. How you handle this I believe is the true test of your character and who you really are. Who do you relate to in this story? Are you the demonstrator? Are you the behind the scenes support? Or are you praying that the crazy ones come to their senses? This story allowed people to serve in different ways and yet not disrupt unity. Can you allow someone to serve differently then you and realize that God will ultimately work it all out if you continue to seek his will in it all? See God decided in this story to allow some to demonstrate and some to pray and some to support. Sometimes I think instead of focusing on so much what God is telling others to do, we need to make sure we hear what God wants us to do and then follow through. We then allow the rest to fall in Gods hands!

2 John 2:11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Jennifer Van Allen,

The Return Home

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Me: Good Day, Prodigal!
Prodigal: Good Day I am visiting with family today and they have heard of your stories that you tell and would be interested in one.
Me: Today I have a story that involves family. In fact I really have two separate stories!
Prodigal: Well that is a treat! We are ready, when you are.

The first story is an old Buddhist story that tells about a son who left the home of his wealthy father and returned later in misery. In physical and emotional shambles, he didn’t even recognize his own father. The father told the servants to clean him up and see what would happen. During the weeks and months ahead, the father watched the son’s response and gradually time brought about the fruit of repentance as the son became considerate and moral. Finally satisfied, the father revealed his own identity and formally accepted the son as his heir.

The second story begins in Luke 15:11
“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.

Now a days people say that all religion is the same and it doesn’t matter what you believe. Here is the Buddhist religion and here is the story of our loving savior Christ. Buddhist love is conditional. You have to work to earn your reward in the afterlife. Jesus Christ just wants you to declare his love for him and return back. Jesus love is about relationship and unconditional love. So does it matter who you worship? Ask the returning son? Or what if the returning son is you? Which ending would you prefer?

Luke 15:24 He was lost, but now he is found

Jennifer Van Allen

Spiritual Growth

Prodigal:  Do you think I am growing in the Lord.

Me:  I think you are and I am proud of that.

Prodigal:  Maybe we can define growth to help others.

This is from the book Life Essentials for Knowing God Better by Tony Evans.

Spiritual growth may be defined as that transformational process by which we allow the indwelling Christ to increasingly express Himself in and through us, resulting in a greater capacity on our part to bring God greater glory and experience His greater good for ourselves.

That’s a mouthful, so here’s a boiled-down version.  Spiritual growth is more of Christ being expressed in my life through less of me.  John the Baptist said it best.  As Jesus’ ministry and popularity grew and John began to step into the background, John’s disciples came to him and said, “Do you realize what’s going on here?”(John 3:22-26).  John’s bottom-line answer was, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (v.30).  We are growing spiritually when more of Jesus is being expressed through less of our fallen humanity.

This is not a time to try and increase who you are and what people think of you.  It is very tempting to say the smallest thing so that people think more of you. No you should decrease.  Don’t say anything about yourself, instead talk about Christ.  Talk about how amazing He is.

Ephesians 2:19-22

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.  Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

Jennifer Van Allen

Once There Was A King….

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Prodigal: Wow long time since I have seen you!
Me: Yes, it has been too long. I have just been busy here and there and everywhere. I do like your castle though.
Prodigal: Yes my friend owns it and is letting me stay here for the end of summer vacation.
Me: What a nice friend! You look like to are living in luxury and that reminds me of a story about a king.
Prodigal: Please share, I am all ears.

This story is from Kierkegaard and it begins the following way.

Suppose there was a King who loved a humble maiden. The king was like no other king. Every statesman trembled before his power. No one dared breather a word against him, for he had the strength to crush all opponents And yet this mighty king was melted by love for a humble maiden.

How could he declare his love for her? In an odd sort of way, his very kingliness tied his hands. If he brought her to the palace and crowed her head with jewels and clothed her body in royal robes, she would surely not resist–no one dared resist him. But would she love him?

She would say she loved him , of course, but would she truly? Or would she live with him in fear, nursing a private grief for the life she had left behind. Would she be happy at his side? How could he know?

If he rode to her forest cottage in his royal carriage, with an armed escort waving bright banners, that too would overwhelm her. He did not want a cringing subject. He wanted a lover, an equal. He wanted her to forget that he was a king and she a humble maiden and to let shared love cross over the gulf between them.

The king, convinced he could not elevate the maiden without crushing her freedom, resolved to descend. He clothed himself as a beggar and approached her cottage incognito, with a worn cloak fluttering loosely about him. It was no mere disguise, but a new identity he took on. He renounced the throne to win her hand. For it is only in love that the unequal can be made equal concluded Kierkegaard.

What Kierkegaard expressed in this story format is what the apostle Paul wrote long ago. Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death even death on a cross.

When we think of Jesus who came to us and humbled himself. That is the ultimate love and I ask that we take a minute and really express out thanks that he has made that sacrifice of love for us today!

Jennifer Van Allen,