Choose

 

Prodigal:  Hi, I am glad we get to spend time together.

Me:  Me too.

 

This is from the book Abraham:  One Nomad’s Amazing Journey of Faith by Charles Swindoll

 

Each morning you wake up with a fresh opportunity to live that day well, to see your next twenty-four hours as a series of choices.  The Lord has granted you a genuine stake in what the day holds.  Choose a positive attitude.  Choose to seek out and focus on the good things.  Choose to face your opportunities with eager anticipation.  Choose to set aside your own expectations, and then embrace what God chooses to do.   Choose to live in a constant state of surprise by laying aside your will and letting the Lord’s will unfold.

Choose your friends well.  Be kind to everyone, but distance yourself from negative people, or you will become like them.  If they’re selfish, you, too, will become self-serving.  If their world revolves around themselves, you, too, will become narcissistic, cynical, and bitter.

 

 

In my Father’s house are many mansions:  if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.

John 14:2

 

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org

Just Passing By

 

Me:  Where are you going?

Prodigal:  I’m just passing by, on the way to the store.

Me:  That reminds me of a story.

 

This comes from the book  Angels Watching Over Us

 

Six months earlier, during a winter blizzard, Kathy’s car had spun off an icy road in a series of graceful pirouettes and come to rest in a deep, snow-filled ditch.

Fortunately, there were no other cars around to get tangled up with, but that also meant no one would likely be coming along for hours.  This was Kathy’s usual shortcut on country back roads between her house and the courthouse in town where she was a circuit court judge.

Used to weighing the facts and options of each situation, Kathy knew this one was not good:  First, the pressure on her chest from the steering wheel where she was jammed would kill her if the subzero temperature didn’t do it first.  Second, the airbag had deflated as quickly as it expanded and was threatening to suffocate her.  And third, no matter how much she wriggled, she couldn’t move enough to reach her cell phone for help.

She had no idea how long it had been since the accident, but she knew that the deepening lethargy creeping through her body was a warning that she was about to lose consciousness.  She drifted in and out of awareness, so cold that she could no longer shiver.

Suddenly, a man–ordinary looking in denim coveralls, a hooded parka, and a red-checked hat- appeared beside her car.

“Are you okay, lady?” he asked.

She could only nod, not having enough room to inhale deeply for a shout.

“We’ll have you out of there in a minute,” he said.

Before she could whisper, “Thank you, ” he disappeared.

She didn’t see him return but heard a noise behind her.  Glancing up in the rearview mirror, she saw him shoveling snow away from the exhaust.  Of course-the carbon monoxide would have killed her even before the cold or the steering wheel’s pressure.

“Sit still now,” the man said, shouting through the back window.  “I’m going to be making some noise.”

And, with that , she heard a wrenching sound as the rear station wagon door reluctantly opened.  The man crawled in and appeared behind her.

Carefully, he lowered the car’s seat back and helped her slide out to safety.  He held her in his arms and let her take in several deep breaths.

“We’ve got to keep moving,” he said.

Half pushing, half carrying her, the man got her up the steep embankment to the roadside.  An ambulance was just pulling up behind a farm livestock truck; she could smell the reassuringly familiar aroma of cows.  Gently the man set her down on the ground.  She closed her eyes lightly as she waited for the EMTs.  She opened her eyes again when she felt a blanket being wrapped around her.

“I’m so glad he called you,”  Kathy said to the EMT who was gently stabilizing and strapping her onto the stretcher.

“Who?”  said the EMT, looking around in confusion.  “Nobody called.  We were dispatched to another accident, but then we got the signal disregard it.  We just happened to be passing by.”

When Kathy’s husband went to the accident scene later that afternoon, the snowfall had erased any trace of an angel who’d worn a red checked hat and driven a stock truck.

 

For now I have chosen and sanctified this house, that my name may be there forever:  and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually.

2 Chronicles 7:16

 

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org

 

Carnal Nature

Prodigal:  I want to help my friend, but I sure hope I will get a nice thank you for it.

Me:  Well, I think helping your friend should be about your heart motive.

Prodigal:  That is something to think about it.

This is from the book Rise and Shine:  A Wake-up Call by Charles Swindoll

It is helpful to remember that the flesh (your carnal nature)  is very creative and selfish.  Think of it as a huge sponge, ready and willing to soak up all the glory.  It is a great pretender, acting like it is humble, yet all the while loving the strokes.  It anticipates them.  It is ambitious.  It is energetic.  It looks for opportunities to grab the glory that belongs to God alone.  The flesh is not choosy.  It doesn’t mind getting the glory for spiritual-sounding things or religious acts.  Who knows how many sermons have been preached in the flesh?  I’ve certainly done a few, I must confess. Futhermore, by hiding my motives, I can, with public skill, manipulate a congregation to do a number of things I want done.  And I can gloss it over so effectively they will think they are doing it God’s way, for God’s purpose, when in actuality they are doing my will, and I get the glory.  I can actually take the glory God alone deserves.

Don’t do it.  Don’t live in the flesh.  I know you have thought it over in your mind several different ways to make it seem it is spiritual, but lets be honest.  You want the glory.  You think your way is the way it should be. Well God has interesting ways, and they don’t always follow your plans.  Focus on a message with the Holy Spirit guiding you, and do not take any of the credit.  Focus on God instead.

Psalm 11:1-2

In the LORD I take refuge;

How can you say to my soul,

“Flee as a bird to your mountain;

For, behold, the wicked bend the bow,

They make ready their arrow upon the string,

To shoot in darkness at the upright heart.

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org

Lukewarm and Their Sin

Me:  How is the water?

Prodigal:  It is lukewarm.

Me:  Water might be nice lukewarm but God doesn’t want our spiritual life to look like that.

This is from the book  Crazy Love by Francis Chan

Lukewarm people don’t really want to be saved from their sin; they want only to be saved from the penalty of their sin.  They don’t genuinely hate sin and aren’t truly sorry for it;  they’re merely sorry because God is going to punish them.  Luke warm people don’t really believe that this new life Jesus offers is better than the old sinful one.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10)

“What shall we say, then?  Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  By no means!  We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”  Romans 6:1-2

I was lukewarm for a very long time.  I remember not feeling upset by sin, and did not take it serious.  Also I remembering thinking that I was intelligent, and I could figure out the best for my life, and not God.  I was very wrong.  I managed to make the outside of my life look very nice but the inside felt empty and hollow.  Jesus really does bring Life!

Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.  But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

Galatians 3:24-25

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org

Acquainted with Grief

Prodigal:  VOOM, VOOM

Me:  You and Brady are having a lot of fun!

Prodigal:  Yes, we are!

Me:  Well, now hush!  You’re makin’ such a ruckus, you’ll wake up the possums.

Prodigal:  Yes mam..we will try to be quieter.

This is from the book Reaching for the Invisible God by Philip Yancey

John Donne, the seventeenth-century poet and dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London was a man acquainted with grief.  During his term at London’s largest church, three waves of the bubonic plague swept through the city, the last epidemic alone killing 40,000 people.  Londoners flocked to Dean Donne for an explanation, or at least a word of comfort.  Meanwhile Donne himself came down with an illness the doctors initially diagnosed as plague (it turned out to be a spotted fever, like typhus).  For six weeks he lay tremulous at the threshold of death, listening to the church bells toll each new fatality, wondering if he would be next (“Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee”).  During this dark time Donne, forbidden to read or study but permitted to write, composed the book Devotions, a meditation on suffering.  He was tuning his instrument at the door, he said–door of death.

In Devotions, John Donne calls God to task.  Sometimes he taunts God, sometimes he grovels and pleads for forgiveness, sometimes he argues fiercely.  But not once does Donne leave God out of the process.  The presence of God shadows every thought, every sentence.

Donne asked the “Why me?” question over and over.  Calvinism was relatively new, and Donne pondered the notion of plagues and wars as “God’s angels.”  He soon recoiled from that idea: “Surely it is not thou, it is not thy hand.  The devouring sword, the consuming fire, the winds from the wilderness, the disease of the body, all that afflicted Job, were from the hands of Satan; it is not thou.”  Still, he never felt certain, and the not-knowing caused him inner torment.  Donne’s book never answers the “Why me?”  questions, as none of us can answer those questions that lie beyond the reach of humanity.

But even though Devotions does not resolve the intellectual doubts, it does record Donne’s emotional resolution.  At first–confined to bed, churning out prayers without answers, contemplating death, regurgitating guilt-he can find no relief from ever-present fear.  Obsessed, he reviews every biblical occurrence of the word fear.  As he does so, it dawns on him that life will always include circumstances that incite fear:  if not illness, financial hardship, if not poverty, rejection, if not loneliness, failure.  In such a world.  Donne has a clear choice: to fear God or to fear everything else, to trust God or to trust nothing.

In his wrestling with God, Donne changes questions.  He began with the question of origin–“Who caused this illness? And why?”–for which he found no answer.  His meditations shift ever so gradually toward the question of response.  The crucial issue, the one that faces every person who endures a great trial, is that same question of response:  Will I trust God with my pain, my weakness, even my fear?  Or will I turn away from him in bitterness and anger?  Donne determines that it does not really matter whether his sickness is a chastening from God or merely a natural occurrence.  In either case he will trust God, for in the end trust represents the proper fear of the Lord.

Deuteronomy 6:18

And thou shalt do that which is right and good in the sight of the LORD:  that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest go in and possess the good land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers.

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org

Substitution

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

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org

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

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org