A Labor of Love

Me:  Look at the statue of an Angel!

Prodigal:  Yes, I thought it was beautiful!

Me:  I have a story that you might like.

It seems an angel slipped out of heaven and spent the day roaming around the earth.  As the sun was setting, he decided he wanted to take along some mementos of his visit.  He noticed some lovely roses in a flower garden, plucked the rarest and most beautiful, and made a bouquet to take back to heaven.  Looking on a bit father, he saw a beautiful little baby smiling into its mother’s face.  The baby’s smile was even prettier than the bouquet of roses, so he took that, too.  He was about to leave when he saw the mother’s love pouring out like a gushing river toward the little baby in the cradle, and he said to himself, “Oh, that mother’s love is the prettiest thing I have seen on earth; I will carry that, too.”

He winged his way back to heaven, but just outside the pearly gates he decided to examine his mementos to see how well they had made the trip.  The flowers had withered, the baby’s smile had faded, but the mother’s love was still there in all its warmth and beauty.  He discarded the withered flowers and the faded smile, gathered all the hosts of heaven around him, and said, “Here’s the only thing I found on earth that would keep its beauty all the way to heaven–it is a mother’s love.”

author unknown

Psalm 144:9

I will sing a new song unto thee, O God: upon a psaltery and an instrument of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee.

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org

The Beginning

Me:  I can see you are in the Christmas Spirit.

Prodigal:  Yes I am and I would like to hear a story that warms the heart.

Me:  I will try.

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

It was just past midnight on December 24, 1983.  The Midwest was shivering through a record-breaking cold spell, complete with gale-force winds and frozen water pipes.  And although our suburban Chicago household was filled with the snug sounds of a family at rest, I couldn’t be a part of them, not until our twenty-one-year old son pulled into the driveway.  At the moment, Tim and his two roommates were driving home for Christmas, their first trip back since they had moved East last May.  “Don’t worry, Mom,”  Tim had reassured me over the phone last night.  “We’re going to leave before dawn tomorrow and drive straight through.  We’ll be fine!”

Kids.  They do insane things.  Under normal circumstances, I figured, a Connecticut-to-Illinois trek ought to take about 18 hours.  But the weather had turned so dangerously cold that radio reports warned against venturing outdoors, even for a few moments.  And we had heard nothing from the travelers.  Distressed, I pictured them on a desolate road.  What if they ran into car problems or lost their way?  And if they had been delayed, why hadn’t Tim phoned?  Restlessly I paced and prayed in the familiar shorthand all mothers know:  God, send someone to help them.

By now, as I later learned, the trio had stopped briefly in Fort Wayne, Indiana, to deposit Don at his family home.  Common sense suggested that Tim and Jim stay the rest of the night and resume their trek in the morning.  But when does common sense prevail with invincible young adults?  There were only four driving hours left to reach home.  And although it was the coldest night in Midwest history and the highways were snowy and deserted, the two had started out again.

They had been traveling for only a few miles on a rural access road to the Indiana tollway, whey they noticed that the car’s engine seemed sluggish, lurching erratically and dying to ten or fifteen miles per hour.  Tim glances uneasily at Jim.  “Do not–” the radio announcer intoned,” repeat–do not venture outside tonight, friends.  There’s a record windchill of eighty below zero, which means that exposed skin will freeze in less than a minute.”  The car surged suddenly, then coughed and slowed again.

“Tim,” Jim spoke into the darkness, “were not going to stall here, are we?”  “We can’t,” Tim answered grimly as he pumped the accelerator.  “We’d die for sure.”

But instead of picking up speed, the engine sputtered, chugging and slowing again.  About a mile later, at the top of a small incline, the car crawled to a frozen stop.

Horrified, Tim and Jim looked at each other in the darkened interior.  They could see across the fields in every direction, but, incredibly, theirs was the only vehicle in view.  For the first time, they faced the fact that they were in enormous danger.  There was no traffic, no refuge ahead, not even a farmhouse light blinking in the distance.  It was as if they had landed on an alien, snow-covered planet.

And the appalling, unbelievable cold!  Never in Tim’s life had he experienced anything so intense.  They couldn’t run for help; he knew that now for sure.  He and Jim were young and strong, but even if shelter was only a short distance away, they couldn’t survive.  The temperature would kill them in a matter of minutes.

“Someone will come along soon,” Jim muttered, looking in every direction.  “They’re bound to.”

“I don’t think so,” Tim said.  “You heard the radio.  Everyone in the world is inside tonight–except us.”

“Then what are we going to do?”

“I don’t know.”  Tim tried starting the engine again, but the ignition key clicked hopelessly in the silence.  Bone-chilling cold had penetrated the car’s interior, and his feet were already growing numb.  Well, God, he prayed, echoing my own distant plea, You’re the only one who can help us now.

It seemed impossible to stay awake much longer….Then, as if they had already slipped into a dream they saw headlights flashing at the car’s left rear.  But that was impossible.  For they had seen no twin pinpricks of light in the distance, no hopeful approach.  Where had the vehicle come from?  Had they already died?

But no.  For, miraculously, someone was knocking on the driver’s side window.  “Need to be pulled?”  In disbelief they heard the muffled shout.  But it was true.  Their rescuer was driving a tow truck.

“Yes! Oh, yes, thanks!”  Quickly, the two conferred as the driver, saying nothing more, drove around to the front of the car and attached chains.  If there were no garages open at this hour, they would ask to take them back to Don’s house, where they could spend the rest of the night.

Swathed almost completely in a furry parka, hood and scarf up to his eyes, the driver nodded at their request but said nothing more.  He was calm, they noted as he climbed into his truck, seemingly unconcerned about the life-threatening circumstances in which he had found them.  Strange that he’s not curious about us, Tim mused, and isn’t even explaining where he came from or how he managed to approach without our seeing him…..And had there been lettering on the side of the truck?  Tim hadn’t noticed any.  He’s going to give us a big bill, on a night like this.  I’ll have to borrow some money from Don or his dad….But Tim was exhausted from the ordeal and gradually, as he leaned against the seat, his thoughts slipped away.

They passed two locked service stations, stopped to alert Don from a pay phone, and were soon towed back through the familiar Fort Wayne neighborhood.  Hushed, Christmas lights long since extinguished and families asleep, Don’s still seemed the most welcoming street they had ever been on.  The driver maneuvered carefully around the cul-de-sac and pulled up in front of Don’s house.  Numb with cold, Tim and Jim raced to the side door where Don was waiting, then tumbled into the blessedly warm kitchen, safe at last.

Don slammed the door against the icy blast.  “Hey, what happened?” he began, but Tim interrupted.

“The tow-truck driver, Don- I have to pay him.  I need to borrow–”

“Wait a minute.”  Don frowned, looking past his friends through the window.  “I don’t see any tow truck out there.”

Tim and Jim turned around.  There, parked alone at the curb, was Tim’s car.  There had been no sound in the crystal-clear night of its release from the chains, no door slam, no chug of an engine pulling away.  There had been no bill for Tim to pay, no receipt to sign, no farewell or “thank you” or “Merry Christmas….”  Stunned, Tim raced back down the driveway to the curb, but there were no taillights disappearing in the distance, no engine noise echoing through the silent streets, nothing at all to mark the two truck’s presence.

Then Tim saw the tire tracks traced in the windblown snowdrifts.  But there was only one set of marks ringing the cul-de-sac curve.  And they belonged to Tim’s car…..

Psalm 33:3

Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theproidgalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org

You Must Do This

Me:  I don’t know if I should try this or not?

Prodigal:  Well, I am not sure.  Just tell a story and then we can come back to it.

Me:  Works for me.

This is from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

When I say “discovered”, I mean really discovered:  not simply said in parrot-fashion.  Of course, any child, if given a certain kind of religious education, will soon learn to say that we have nothing to offer to God that is not already His own and that we find ourselves failing to offer even that without keeping something back.  But I am talking of really discovering this:  really finding out by experience that it is true.

Now we cannot, in that sense, discover our failure to keep God’s law except by trying our very hardest (and then failing).  Unless we really try, whatever we say there will always be at the back of our minds the idea that if we try harder next time we shall succeed in being completely good.  Thus, in one sense, the road back to God is a road of moral effort of trying harder and harder.  But in another sense it is not trying that is ever going to bring us home.  All this trying leads up to the vital moment at which you turn to God and say, “You must do this.  I can’t.”

Psalm 63:4-5

Thus will I bless you while I live; lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.  As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied, and will exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org

Willing To Risk

 

Me:  Prodigal, I think it is risky for you to get to close to Conley’s….

Prodigal:  Sometimes you just have to take the risk.

 

This is from the book Believe and Rejoice by James Gills M.D.

 

Everybody knows you must take risks to be successful by earthly standards.  What we risk in order to make anything of our lives spiritually is even greater.  We have to risk worldly success, risk losing our feeling of independence, and risk giving up control of our lives.  But what we gain is so great that the risks pale in comparison.  Charles Swindoll asked, “Are you willing to risk as much to make a difference as you are willing to risk to make a dollar?”  To be truly relinquished we have to risk it all.

Yes, we risk without knowing the outcome.  That is taking a risk, because we trust God with the outcome and our lives.

 

Psalm 47:7

For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding.

 

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org

Risking

 

Me:  Are you sure he is happy about what you are doing Prodigal?

Prodigal:  Sure this is fine.

Me:  There’s a big difference between an angry bull and a thorny bush.

 

Two seeds lay side by side in the fertile spring soil.

The first seed said, “I want to grow!  I want to send my roots deep into the soil beneath me, and thrust my sprouts through the earth’s crust above me……I want to unfurl my tender buds like banners to announce the arrival of spring….I want to feel the warmth of the sun on my face and the blessing of the morning dew on my petals!”

And so she grew.

The second seed said, “I am afraid.  If I send my roots into the ground below, I don’t know what I will encounter in the dark.  If I push my way through the hard soil above me I may damage my delicate sprouts….what if I let my buds open and a snail tries to eat them?  And if I were to open my blossoms, a small child may pull me from the ground.  No, it is much better for me to wait until it is safe.”

And so she waited.

A yard hen scratching around in the early spring ground for food found the waiting seed and promptly ate it.

Moral of the Story

Those of us who refuse to risk and grow get swallowed up by life.

Patty Hansen

 

I can do all things through Christ which strengthen me.

Philipppians 4:13

 

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org

Handling Relationships

 

Me:  Wait one second, before you leave to start they day I wanted to share something that may help you with the people you are dealing with.

Prodigal:  Sure, I need to be focused today on the right thing.

 

This is from R. E. Thompson

 

Do other people’s failures annoy or challenge you?

Do you “use” people, or cultivate people?

Do you direct people, or develop people?

Do you criticize, or encourage?

Do you shun or seek out the person with a special need or problem?

 

The sadness of these is when someone chooses to “use” people.  It has made my heart weep with a despair when I see this.  The people who are being used at times are so insecure.  They just want that someone, that comment, that something that proves their worth instead of their identity in Christ.  Then someone comes along very selfish and just uses them.  In the end it is an ugly game.  Both people are miserable but do not know why at times and in the process that leads each other further from Christ.  Don’t use someone no matter how small it may seem.  You never know if this will start down a long path that is very far from both of your walks with the Lord.

 

1 Timothy 2:1

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone.

 

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org

Let God be God

Me:  You  look like you are thinking.

Prodigal:  I am.  God seems like He makes no sense sometimes.

Me:  God is God and we can’t always understand everything going on around us.

This is from the book Prophetic Voices in Contemporary Theology by Alvin Porteous

It implies that there is in man no natural capacity by virtue of which he can grasp God and make him an object of knowledge.  To grant such a capacity would be to put revelation in the control of man and infringe upon the sovereign freedom of God to reveal himself as and where he will.

Be weary of that Christian who has figured out all the ways that God works and tells you everything that God thinks.  Even if we have words of wisdom or the Holy Spirit shares God’s truth.  God never lets anyone replace Him with all knowledge and future knowledge.  There is only one that knows all and that is God.

Psalm 33:1

Rejoice in the LORD, O ye righteous; for praise is comely for the upright.

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org

My Only Qualifications

 

Me:  Y’all are looking top feather!

Prodigal:  We try to dress it up sometime.

Me:  I will share about some other types of clothing.

 

This is from Max Lucado in his book In the Grip of Grace You Can’t Fall Beyond His Love

 

My only qualification for writing a book on grace is the clothing I wear.  Let me explain.

For years I owned an elegant suit complete with coat, trousers, even a hat.  I considered myself quite dapper in the outfit and was confident others agreed.

The pants were cut from the cloth of my good works, sturdy fabric of deeds done and projects completed.  Some studies here, some sermons there.  Many people complimented my trousers, and I confess, I tended to hitch them up in public so people would notice them.

The coat was equally impressive.  It was woven together from my convictions.  Each day I dressed myself in deep feelings of religious fervor.  My emotions were quite strong.  So strong, in fact, that I was often asked to model my cloak of zeal in public gatherings to inspire others.  Of course I was happy to comply.

While there I’d also display my hat, a feathered cap of knowledge.  Formed with my own hands from the fabric of personal opinion, I wore it proudly.

Surely God is impressed with my garments, I often thought.  Occasionally I strutted into his presence so he could compliment the self-tailored wear.  He never spoke.  His silence must mean admiration, I convinced myself.

But then my wardrobe began to suffer.  The fabric of my trousers grew thin.  My best works started coming unstitched.  I began leaving more undone than done, and what little I did was nothing to boast about.

No problem, I thought.  I’ll work harder.

But working harder was a problem.  There was a hole in my coat of convictions.  My resolve was threadbare.  A cold wind cut into my chest.  I reached up to pull my hat down firmly, and the brim ripped off in my hands.

Over a period of a few months, my wardrobe of self-righteousness completely unraveled.  I went from tailored gentleman’s apparel to beggars’ rags.  Fearful that God might be angry at my tattered suit, I did my best to stitch it together and cover my mistakes.  But the cloth was so worn.  And the wind was so icy.  I gave up.  I went back to God.  (Where else could I go?)

On a wintry Thursday afternoon, I stepped into his presence, not for applause, but for warmth.  My prayer was feeble.

“I feel naked.”

“You are.  And you have been for a long time.”

What he did next I’ll never forget.  “I have something to give you,” he said.  He gently removed the remaining threads and then picked up a robe, a regal robe, the clothing of his own goodness.  He wrapped it around my shoulders.  His words to me were tender.  “My son, you are now clothed with Christ” Gal 3:27

 

Romans 2:1

If you think you can judge others, you are wrong.  When you judge them, you are really judging yourself guilty, because you do the same things they do.  God judges those who do wrong things, and we know that his judging is right.

 

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org