The Meaning of Mourning

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Me:  How are you feeling today Prodigal?

Prodigal:  I am feeling a little sad.

Me:  Sadness is something we all feel my friend.

Prodigal:  It helps to know that I am not alone.

Me:  You are not.  In fact Jesus talks about mourning.


In Billy Graham’s book The Secret of Happiness he explores mourning.

Let us begin with the word mourning itself.  It means to feel deep sorrow, to show great concern, or to deplore some existing wrong.”  It implies that if we are to live life on the higher plane then we are to be sensitive, sympathetic, tenderhearted, and alert to the needs of others and the world.

Perhaps we can see its meaning more clearly by thinking about its opposite.  What is the opposite of mourning?  Some might say it would be joy–and that is correct to a certain degree.  But more than that, the opposite of mourning is insensitivity, lack of caring, unconcern, callousness, indifference.  When I mourn it is because my heart has been touched by the suffering and heartache of others–or even by my own heartache.  When I do not care and am indifferent, then I do not mourn.  The person who mourns is a person with a tender and sensitive heart.

Only God knows I have a cried a wailing sorrow that could only be comforted by answered prayers of God’s grace.  My eyes could not see the Lord of comfort but my spirit was receiving the comfort that I was desperately needing in the time of sorrow.  The life we live is not without the tears of sorrow, and the cries of agony.  The life we live is not without the peace beyond understanding that is given to us like a river in the dessert that we run to after our soul has been covered by the sands of pain.


Isaiah 14:3

And it shall come to pass in the day that the Lord shall give thee rest from thy sorrow, and from thy fear, and from the hard bondage wherein thou was made to serve.


Jennifer Van Allen

A Story

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Me:  How is your day today Prodigal?

Prodigal:  It was just a little bit better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

Me:  Maybe I can distract you with a story that reminds us that, at any time God can change things.

This comes from the book Too Busy Not To Pray by Bill Hybels

After a particularly exhausting meeting one evening, I got into my car to head home.  As I made my way down the exit road, I noticed out of the corner of my eye someone walking toward the parking area.  In that fraction of a second I received what I thought was a prompting from God-to go and offer some form of assistance to the person I had just passed.

My initial response was Why?  The person didn’t seem to be having any difficulty.  My second response was Why Me?  I’d already done my share that day, studying, working on a sermon, counseling with people and then leading a meeting.  I just wanted to go home.

And so I kept driving, rationalizing my disobedience to the little prompting from God with every quarter mile gained.  But wouldn’t you know, the Holy Spirit persisted.  By the time I had reached the entrance sign to Willow’s property, I felt so restless in my spirit that I decided I couldn’t put up with it anymore.  Disobedience was causing more stress than simply turning around and obeying, even if I was tired and even if I did deserve to go home.

I headed back down the entrance road, pulled alongside the person, who was still traveling on foot, rolled my window down and awkwardly said, “Is there any way I can serve you?  Could I drive you to your car or something?”

I had never seen the woman before, but she recognized me and gladly accepted my offer.  We drove toward her car, and just as she was about to thank me and step out, she said, “There was an announcement in the bulletin at church tonight about the need for administrative help in the church office, and I’ve been feeling God leading me to apply for that position.  What do you think?”

That night I had no idea how offering help to a person who probably didn’t need it would affect my life and ministry.  As it turned out the woman joined our staff and served faithfully for almost ten years.

I cringe when I imagine what Willow might have missed if I hadn’t obeyed that prompting.


Galatians 5:6

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.


Jennifer Van Allen

Good Gifts

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Me:  Prodigal, that is a BIG gift and I hope it is for me!

Prodigal:  No, I am given it to someone very special!

Me:  I am sure they will like it!  To go along with the theme.  I am going to talk about God’s gifts.


Ellen Vaughn writes:

Gratitude unleashes the freedom to live content in the moment, rather than being anxious about the future or regretting the past.  So one’s focus is free to have not only a keener awareness of spiritual blessings, but the physical pleasure of every day things we can taste, touch, hear, see, smell…All good gifts come from God.  Not to enjoy them is to be ungrateful.


I forget to express my gratitude for you.  I forget to tell you what a gift you are in my life.  You are a gift from God because He knew what  would make me content and give me joy.


Ephesians 3:22

In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.


Jennifer Van Allen


Training to Your Children

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Me:  Howdy!

Prodigal:  Shh!  The baby is sleeping.  I was just watching how precious he is.

Me:  We must not disturb the baby.  Lets go to the other room.


Today we share from Great Women of the Christian Faith by Edith Deen

This is from a letter that Susanna Wesley sent to her son.  She is the mother of John Wesley

Consider well what a separation from the world, what purity, what devotion, what exemplary virtue, are required in those who are to guide others to glory…I would advise you to arrange your affairs by a certain method, by which means you will learn to improve every precious moment…Begin and end the day with Him who is the Alpha and Omega, and if you really experience what it is to love God, you will redeem all the time you can for His more immediate service.

Endeavor to act upon principle and do not live like the rest of mankind, who past through the world like straws upon a river, which are carried which way the stream or wind drive them…Get as deep an impression on your mind as is possible of the constant presence of the great and holy God.  He is about our beds and about our paths and spies out all our ways.  Whenever you are tempted to the commission of any sin, or the omission of any duty, pause and say to yourself “What am I about to do?  God sees me.”

Psalm 23:1

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.


Jennifer Van Allen

A Terrestrial Planet

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Me:  Do you like that globe Prodigal?

Prodigal:  Yes,  just thinking about the Earth and how amazing it is!

Me:  Do you know God made the Earth?

Prodigal:  Some people do not agree with that.

Me:  That is why I wanted to share the information I have for you today.


This comes from the book Exceeding Gratitude for the Creator’s Plan by Dr. James Gills


Gonzalez and Richards explain that there are many factors necessary to have conditions for a habitable planet like Earth.  The main prerequisite for life is liquid water.  The searches being done for life on other planets are based first of all on the presence of water.  Another vital factor is the distance of the planet from its main star.  If Earth were just 5 percent closer to its sun, it would be subject to the same fate as Venus, which has temperatures rising to one thousand degrees Fahrenheit.  Conversely, if Earth were 20 percent farther from its home star, a cycle of ice and cold would destroy any possibility of life.  Scientists have compiled a list of over one hundred vital elements necessary for making a planet inhabitable.  Some of the items are:

—An oxygen-rich atmosphere and nitrogen, in correct and consistent amounts necessary for complex life

–A terrestrial planet of soil-rich land

–A global system of plate tectonics which are in constant motion and regulate the interior temperature and shape the continents.  We live on a thin crust; if it were thicker, the plate tectonics would not function.

–A correct ratio of liquid water and continents

–A nearly circular orbit

–A moderate rate of rotation

–Protection from meteor or comet impacts provided by nearby gas giant planets

–A large moon orbiting it to stabilize the axis of the Earth, ensuring temperature season changes

–A large magnetic field (if smaller, the planet would be barren)

According to scientists, the complete list of complex factors have to meet at one time and place in order to make a planet as habitable as the Earth.  They conclude that the probability ratio of that happening is less than one chance in a billion.


Psalm 147:15

He sendeth forth his commandment upon earth:  his word runneth very swiftly


Jennifer Van Allen

A Jewish Psychiatrist

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Me:  Prodigal, you found a Menorah!

Prodigal:  Yes,  I was interested in some of the Jewish thoughts.

Me:  I have something I was reading about from Victor Frankl

David Jeremiah wrote in his book Turning Toward Joy

Victor Frankl was a Jewish psychiatrist who spend three grim years in a Nazi prison camp.

“The experiences of camp life show that man does have a choice of action.  There were enough examples, often of a heroic nature, which proved that apathy could be overcome, irritability suppressed.  Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual freedom, of independence of mind, even in such terrible conditions of psychic and physical stress….everything can be taken from man but one thing:  the last of human freedoms–to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s way.  And there were always choices to make.  Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision….In the final analysis it becomes clear that the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone.  Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him—mentally and spiritually.”

The Word of God confirms the truth of Frankl’s words.


I know this week seems to be never ending experiences that make you feel trapped.  God does not seem to answer.  You are weary and the stress is too much to bare.  I know you don’t want to hear this because you just want your life to change at the moment.  God wants you to know that you still have a choice to make mentally and spiritually.


You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

Isaiah 26:3



Jennifer Van Allen


He Loves You

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Prodigal:  Do you think angels are real?

Me:  The bible says they are.

Prodigal:  How do we know if they are there?

Me:  We don’t always know but we have to just  live by faith and not sight with that topic.


Charles Spurgeon writes in his book Joy in Christ’s Presence

How hard it is to talk of love in such a way as to convey what is really meant by it!  How often have my eyes been full of tears when I have realized the thought that Jesus loves me!  How my spirit has been melted within me at the assurance that He thinks of me and carries me in His heart!  But I cannot kindle the same emotion in others, nor can I give, in writing, so much as a faint idea of the bliss that is contained in that exclamation, “Oh, how He loves!”

Dear reader, can you say of yourself, “He loved me”? (See Galatians 2:20).  Then look down into this sea of love, and try to guess its depth.  Does it not stagger your faith that He loves you so?  Or, if you have strong confidence, does it not enfold your spirit in a flame of admiration and adoring gratitude?  Even the angels have never known such love as this!  Jesus does not engrave their names upon His hands or call them His bride.  No, this highest fellowship He reserves for worms such as ourselves, whose only response is tearful, hearty thanksgiving and love.


How Great is thy love for me!  How Great is thy love for you!  Lets take time to enjoy it just this minute.


Psalm 94:17

Unless the Lord had been my help, my soul had almost dwelt in silence.


Jennifer Van Allen

Love is Patient

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Me:  Howdy Prodigal!

Prodigal:  Its a beautiful day, to pause and reflect on the goodness.

Me:  I agree!


Charles Swindoll shares in his book Dropping Your Guard


In verses 4 through 7 of 1 Corinthians 13, there are fifteen specific expressions of love, each one magnetic enough to draw people together.  Just listen to them:

Love is patient.

Love is  kind.

Love is not jealous.

Love does not brag and is not arrogant.

Love does not act unbecomingly.

Love does not seek its own.

Love is not provoked.

Love does not take into account a wrong suffered.

Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness.

Love rejoices with the truth.

Love bears all things.

Love believes all things.

Love hopes all things.

Love endures all things.

Love never fails.

Look at that climax:  “Love never fails.”

When we summarize these fifteen magnetic characteristics that never fail.”  I find five statements that say it all.

I accept you as you are.

I believe you are valuable.

I care when you hurt.

I desire only what is best for you.

I erase all offenses.


Love really did not fail did it?  That is what I am reminded of when I look into your eyes.


Psalm 124:2-5

if it had not been the LORD who was on our side when people rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us; then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us; then over us would have gone the raging waters.


Jennifer Van Allen

Story Time


Prodigal:  Argggg  Matey!

Me:  You are quite the character.

Prodigal:  I decided to go whole hog!

Me:  That is what you did my friend.


This is from the book Tim Chester You Can Change


Our problem is that we think of ourselves as being at the center of our world.  We think of our lives as a story and, if we’re Christians, God is one of the characters in our story.  We look for him when we need him and expect him to be grateful when we serve him.  He’s a lovely piece or our story, but we still think of it as our story.  But it’s not our story.  It’s God’s story.  Of course there is a sense in which God is there for us.  But the bigger reality is that we’re there for God.  We exist to give him glory.  He doesn’t owe us anything, not even explanations.  Meanwhile, we owe him everything as our Creator and Redeemer.


I am glad this is God’s story and not my own!  May I continue to give God glory.


Isaiah 10:20-23

In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth.  A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.  For though your people of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return.  Destruction is decreed, overflowing with righteousness.  For the Lord God of hosts will make a full end, as decreed in the midst of all the earth.


Jennifer Van Allen

The Power of God



Me:  Prodigal, are you at a hockey game?

Prodigal:  Yep, hockey is fun to watch!

Me:  Before the next period starts why don’t I share a story for you.


This comes from the book Voices of the Faithful by Beth Moore


Civil war pummeled Ivory Cost, West Africa.  When the fighting began, doctors fled.  That was how one Toura village found itself without modern medicine.  An epidemic swept through killing dozens of children.

Among the victims was 4 year old Rebecca, the daughter of Clarice and Zo, two of only three Christians there.  “If your God is so powerful, why did Rebecca die?”  the villagers asked Clarice, taunting.

“If your fetishes are so powerful, why did your children die?  Clarice answered. “The Bible says it rains on the righteous and the unrighteous alike.”

Months later, illness struck Clarice, and she fell into a coma.  Zo’s father, Lee, summoned the medicine men to work magic over his daughter-in-law.  Zo refused witchcraft.  Lee was furious and told the medicine men, “Just leave.  We’ll let my son and his Christians pray and we’ll see how powerful their God is!”

Zo and Christians from another village prayed.  They knelt on the dusty floor of the two-room home, laid their hands on Clarice’s motionless body and cried out to God.  As they prayed, Clarice opened her eyes!

The next day, there was another miracle.  After hearing about Clarice’s recovery, Lee put on his nicest robe, picked up his crane and walked six miles to the other village.  There, he thanked each Christian who prayed.  This man who had persecuted Christians was now honoring them.

Today, Clarice is back working in her fields.  Her life has been a testimony to many of the power of prayer to the true God.


–Susan, West Africa


The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

James 5:16


Jennifer Van Allen,