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Me: Prodigal, Nice fish!

Prodigal: It is the only one I caught today but it is beautiful.

Me: I didn’t know you like to fish.

Prodigal: Yeah it is relaxing and also rewarding when it is a good day.

Me: I know a story about a family who would go fishing.

Prodigal: Well that story would fit in so lets hear it!

Today our story comes from Max Lucado about his family and what happened when he was younger. The way he describes it is just wonderful and I would like to share.

When I was in high school, our family used to fish every year during spring break. One year my brother and my mom couldn’t go, so my dad let me invite a friend. I asked Mark. He was a good pal and a great sport. He got permission from his parents, and we began planning our trip.
Days before leaving, we could already anticipate the vacation. We could feel the sun warming our bodies as we floated in the boat. We could feel the yank of the rod and hear the spin of the reel as we wrestled the white bass into the boat. And we could smell fish frying in an open skillet over an open fire.
We could hardly wait. Days passed like cold molasses. Finally spring break arrived. We loaded our camper and set out for the lake.
We arrived late at night, unfolded the camper, and went to bed–dreaming of tomorrow’s day in the sun. But during the night, an unseasonable strong northern blew in. It got cold fast! The wind was so strong that we could barely open the camper door the next morning. The sky was gray. The lake was a mountain range of white-topped waves. There was no way we could fish in that weather.
“No problem,” we said. “We’ll spend the day in the camper. After all, we have Monopoly. We have Reader’s Digest. We all know a few jokes. It’s not what we came to do, but we’ll make the best of it and fish tomorrow.”
So, huddled in the camper with a Coleman stove and a Monopoly board, we three fishermen passed the day–indoors. The hours passed slowly, but they did pass. Night finally came, and we crawled into the sleeping bags dreaming of angling.
Were we in for a surprise. The next morning it wasn’t the wind that made the door hard to open, it was the ice!
We tried to be cheerful. “No problem,” we mumbled. “We can play Monopoly….again. We can reread the stories in Reader’s Digest. And surely we know another joke or two.” But as courageous as we tried to be, it was obvious that some of the gray had left the sky and entered our camper.
I began to notice a few things I hadn’t seen before. I noticed that Mark had a few personality flaws. He was a bit too cocky about his opinions. He was easily irritated and constantly edgy. He couldn’t take any constructive criticism. Even though his socks did stink, he didn’t think it was my business to tell him.
“Just looking our for the best interest of my dad’s camper.” I defended, expecting Dad to come to my aid.
But Dad just sat over in the corner, reading. Humph, I thought, where is he when I need him? And then, I began to see Dad in a different light. When I mentioned to him that the eggs were soggy and the toast was burnt, he invited me to try my hand at the portable stove. Touchy, touchy, I said to myself. Nothing like being cooped up in a camper with someone to help you see his real nature.
It was a long day. It was a long, cold night.
When we awoke the next morning to the sound of sleet slapping the canvas, we didn’t even pretend to be cheerful. We were flat-out grumpy. Mark became more of a jerk with each passing moment; I wondered what spell of ignorance I mush have been in when I invited him. Dad couldn’t do anything right; I wondered how someone so irritable could have such an even-tempered son. We sat in misery the whole day, our fishing equipment still unpacked.
The next day was even colder. “We’re going home” were my father’s first words. No one objected. I learned a hard lesson that week. Not about fishing, but about people.
When those who are called to fish don’t fish, they fight.
When energy intended to be used outside is used inside, the result is explosive. Instead of casting nets, we cast stones. Instead of extending helping hands, we point accusing fingers. Instead of being fishers of the lost, we become critics of the saved. Rather then helping the hurting, we hurt the helpers.
The result? Church Scrooges. “Bah humbug” spirituality. Beady eyes searching for warts on others while ignoring the warts on the nose below. Crooked fingers that bypass strengths and point out weaknesses.
Split churches, Poor testimonies. Broken hearts. Legalistic wars. And, sadly, poor go unfed, confused go uncounseled, and lost go unreached.
When those who are called to fish don’t fish, they fight. But note the other side of this fish tale: When those who are called to fish, fish–they flourish!

This was a longer story but touched me. In our society where it very popular to have lots of money, sit at the pool with a drink in our hand, this is saying the opposite. We are taught that success and happiness is not working, having lots of money and having others do for us. I think all this creates emptiness inside of us. It does not make that person happy. We are made to fish. We are made in God’s eyes to serves others. We find our value, our worth, our peace with God, when we turn to serving God and not ourselves. I think it is important that when we do see Church Scrooges, we don’t respond like a scrooges ourselves. We are to respond with the love and grace that God has given to us. Does that sound impossible? It is impossible with the flesh but with God all things are possible!

And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19

Jennifer Van Allen,

Can God be a Realtor?

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Me: I see you are at your friends place again.

Prodigal: Yes, they just moved in so I am helping them unpack and get settled in.

Me: My stories are shared so that you can see that real people have their prayers answered by God in different ways all the time.

Prodigal: I am beginning to see that God is involved in our lives and he doesn’t always do things the way we thought but they are perfect in the end.

Me: I have a story from my friends Keith and Becca and they just moved like your friends.

Prodigal: I would love to hear!

I have known Keith for several years and it has been a blessing to see how God has worked in his life. I have seen him work in houses situations, in his ministry calling and also finding him a Godly wife. Keith and his wife just moved to the Philippines to be in full time ministry. Keith emailed how God worked in finding them a house. I am going to share in his exact words.

Hey Jennifer, you gotta hear about how we got our condo. Looking back at things, God was really working in our house search to give us the right place.

We were trying to rent a really awesome condo about 20 mins from church (we were living about an hour from church), but were having trouble because the owner wanted us to give him 2 months deposit and 10 post dated checks for payment. We can’t get a checking account here because you have to have a banking relationship (savings account) with the banks for 6 months before they will give you a checking account. But a friend was going to introduce us to a bank manager who would make an exception and grant us the checking account. However, while we were inside opening up the checking account, the bank employees rushed over to us and told us our car was getting towed. Long story short, we ended up not getting a parking ticket (despite being told it was ok to park there), but had to pay them the amount of the parking ticket “not to tow our car.” Ugh, what a hassle. So we never did open the checking account. It turns out that was God divinely intervening in our house search.

Because we couldn’t get a checking account, we started looking for other apartments. God put us in touch with a very nice real estate agent who also attended a Baptist church. He showed us another unit in the same building, but FAR, FAR better. It was $200 less per month, was FULLY furnished, and came with two parking spots instead of just one…. and the owner said we could pay cash on a month-to-month basis.

I love this story because this is how God works. We have plans and we start to go in one direction and nothing seems to work. That is because God has different plans and he wants us to turn around. It is only once we turn around that God will show us how everything lined up and he gave us something better. Keith thought that the first condo was the best but God showed Keith their was something better.

Psalms 119:35
Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, For I delight in it.

Jennifer Van Allen,

Being Rooted and Grounded

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Prodigal: What a view!
Me: Where are you Prodigal?
Prodigal: Look up.
Me: What are you doing in that tree?
Prodigal: This looked like a strong tree and I wanted to climb a tree today. Do something different. Let loose.
Me: Well I think you have accomplished that. I have never told you a story while you are in a tree but why not this time. Hang on and relax while I begin my story.

This week I was reading Charles Spurgeon. He starts by saying It is a grand thing to have a faith which cannot be shaken. I saw one day a number of beech trees which had formed a wood; they had all fallen to the ground through a storm. The fact was they leaned upon one another to a great extent, and the thickness of the wood prevented each tree from getting a firm hold of the soil. They kept each other up and also constrained each other to grow up tall and thin, to the neglect of root growth. When the tempest forced down the first few trees the others readily followed one after the other. Close to that same spot I saw another tree in the open, bravely defying the blast, in solitary strength. The hurricane had beaten upon it but it had endured all its force unsheltered. That lone, brave tree seemed to be better rooted than before the storm.

I thought, “Is it not so with professors?” They often hold together, and help each other to grow up, but if they have not firm personal roothold, when a storm arises they fall in rows. A minister dies, or certain leaders are taken away, and over go the members departure from the faith and from holiness. I would have you be self-contained, growing each man into Christ for himself, rooted and grounded in love and faith and every holy grace. Then when the worst storm that ever blew on mortal man shall come, it will be said of your faith, “I could not shake it.”

As a counselor I deal a lot with assessing where someone is mature wise with their faith. One thing I have seen though is if you have a problem how much time do you spend taking it to God. We should consult mature close friends when in a storm. The difference though is, are we leaning on the friends or are we leaning on God? Are the friends beside us with a helping hand but our roots are still firmly being supported by God? Or are we turning to others things to also support our roots? For a lot of men we can try to support our roots instead of allowing God to do that. This happened to me this past week. I had a problem arise that I was unsure of how to proceed. I quickly found myself talking to much about it with too many people. I prayed and I got a scripture that said stand still and turn to me. I quickly adjusted my schedule to spend more time with God. Guess what happened. God strengthened me. He is teaching me to have roots that are grounded in him which means that these storms and trials will not destroy me or the work I do for God!

Isaiah 40:29

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

Jennifer Van Allen,

Parent or Lover?


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Me: Prodigal what a group you have there today!

Prodigal: Yes this is my friend Bubba and Bubba Jr., I have been talking about your stories and a couple of friends wanted to hear.

Me: Well the stories are from God and not me but I do not mind sharing them. In fact I have one that relates to parents so I could share that one today.

Prodigal: Perfect lets begin!

Philip Yancey begins by saying lets think back to the images from the Prophets: God as Parent and as Lover. Both those human relationships contain elements of what God has always been seeking from human beings. One Word, dependence, holds the key. The key to what they have in common and the key to how they differ.
For a baby, dependence is everything; someone else must meet its every need or the child will die. Parents stay up all night, clean up vomit, teach toilet training, and perform other unpleasant chores out of love because they sense the child’s dependence. But such a pattern cannot continue forever. An eagle stirs the nest to force its eaglets to fly; a mother covers her breast to wean her child.
No healthy parent wants a permanently dependent child on his hands. And so a father does not push his daughter around in a large carriage for life, but teaches her to walk, knowing that she may one day walk away. Good parents nudge their children from dependence toward freedom.
Lovers, however, reverse the pattern. A lover possesses complete freedom, yet chooses to give it away and become dependent. “Submit to one another.” says the Bible, and any couple can tell you that’s an apt description of the day-to-day process of getting along. In a healthy marriage, one submits to the other’s wishes voluntarily, out of love. In an unhealthy marriage, submission becomes part of a power struggle, a tug-of-war between competing egos.
The difference between those two relationships shows, I believe, what God has been seeking in his long history with the human race. He desires not the clinging, helpless love of a child who has no choice, but the mature, freely given love of a lover. He has been “romancing” us all along.
God never got such mature love from the nation Israel. The record shows God nudging the young nation toward maturity: on the day Israel advanced into the Promised Land, the manna ceased. God had provided a new land; now it was up to the Israelites to grow their own food. In a typically childish response, Israel promptly started worshiping fertility gods. God wanted a lover, he got a permanently stunted child.

This does not mean God wants a lover in a physical sense but it is talking about our emotional relationship with God and this gives a vivid picture in our mind what God is looking for. Maybe today your focus is about your own relationship with your children? Maybe the focus is about a love relationship and where it is going? Maybe it is about your relationship with God? Today where are we going? Are we standing still in stunted growth or are we moving forward to the Promise Land that God has given us?

Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.”
1 Corinthians 14:20

Jennifer Van Allen,