In Good Hands

 

Me:  Sometimes there is beauty even in our grief.

Prodigal:  How does that happen.

Me: With the Lord.

 

This is from the book Chicken Soup for the Soul:  Stories of Faith by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen

 

The phone rang early.  Hal, my husband, answered it before it rang again.

“Yes?” he said.  “Oh….I see.”  By the tone of his voice I knew it was the phone call we’d expected and dreaded.

We’d watched Hal’s father, Harold grow weaker since his heart attack in January.  Dad’s bypass surgery eight years earlier had given us far more than the five years doctors has promised.  Then Dad experienced several smaller heart attacks.  His lungs began filling with fluid.  Doctors had reached the end of what they could do for him in the hospital and transferred him to an extended care facility.

With his needs beyond what care we could give and because he lived an hour and a half away, the most we could do was visit him as often as possible.  Since we couldn’t help him physically, the best care we could give was to care for his soul.

Hal and I had become Christians fifteen years earlier, and we wanted to share our faith with his family.  His mother, Grace, had taken Hal and his brothers to church when they were young, but his father never went.  Grace quit attending after Dad’s first heart attack.

Did she stay home to make sure Dad was okay after his quadruple bypass?  Or had his heart attack shaken her faith?  I didn’t know.

“Give us an opportunity to tell Dad about you,”  I prayed to Jesus.  “He must decide whether he will take you as his Savior, but please don’t let him die without a clear opportunity to respond to you.”  I had prayed similar prayers for years, but when Dad became sick my urgency increased.

Hal hung up the phone.  “Dad died at 3:30 this morning.”

“Lord,” I prayed silently,” did he have the opportunity I asked for?”

Hal and I had both looked for that opportunity to tell Dad about Jesus, but we saw none.  With each visit, Dad seemed less willing to talk to us at all.  He just stared at the television.  When we tried to start a conversation, he pressed the “up” button on the volume control.  The more we tried, the more increased the volume.  The urgency I felt inside increased as well.

We asked a hospital chaplain to visit Dad.  He did.  We asked our own pastor to visit.  He made the trip.  A pastor from Mom’s church visited too, but the results were always the same.  Up, up went the volume on the TV.   I didn’t know what else to do but pray.

And now Dad was gone.

According to my faith, those who accept Jesus Christ as Savior are ensured an eternity in heaven with Him.  However, those who refuse this gift of salvation spend eternity separated from God.  I still hoped somehow God had answered my prayer and had helped Dad understand, but had He?  I didn’t know.

We buried Dad in the veterans’ portion of the cemetery.  Mom, a veteran of World War II herself, made her own final arrangements at the same time.  But none of us knew how soon she would need them.

The week after Dad’s funeral, she started showing signs of illness.  One day, a neighbor found her on the floor, incoherent.  Doctors diagnosed Mom with a cancerous tumor in her stomach plus lymphoma.  She was hospitalized and we resumed the endless trips to visit.

Mom was to weak to live alone, and her sons, discussed their options, each offering to care for her.  But it became clear her needs exceeded what any of us could give.  The best we could do as her caregivers was to let professionals help.  She moved into an extended care facility.  The chemo weakened her so that she didn’t speak anymore.  She began having small strokes, then a major stroke.  And there we were, the week of Christmas, laying Grace to rest beside her husband.

We invited everyone to gather at our home that Christmas.  As we quietly celebrated the birth of Jesus, I not only wondered about Harold, I also wondered if Grace had a true understanding of Jesus Christ.  How I wished I knew.

The new year dawned, and we all felt emotionally and physically drained.  Nevertheless, the work of dealing with Harold and Grace’s estate lay before us.  Each of us sorted, separated, donated, gave away or sold belongings.  We fixed up their home for sale, painting inside and out.  Finally, six months later, Hal and I set the few remaining items in the driveway for one last sale.

Neighbors, Christine and Alfonso, stopped by.  “You know, we visited your dad in the nursing home, “Alfonso told us.

“No, we didn’t know that,” Hal said.

“One afternoon I told Christine, “We need to go see Harold.”  We went right then.  When I walked into his room, ” Alfonso said, “his face lit up!  He was so happy to see us.  So I just started telling him about Jesus.”

“Really?”  Hal asked, glancing at me.

“Your Dad said he wasn’t ready to go,”Alfonso said.  “I told him, “I’m not saying you’re going to die, but we all need to be ready.”  I explained to him about Jesus and then asked if he’d like to ask Jesus to be his Savior.  He began to weep and said yes, so I led him in a prayer.”

“We had to idea!  When did this happen?”  I asked, incredulously.

“Well, ”  Alfonso thought for a moment, “he died early the next morning.”

“I prayed with your mother, too” Christine added.  “When the ambulance came for your dad, I stayed with her.  I asked her if she was sure she’d go to heaven when she died and she said no, so I prayed with her so she could be sure.”

“Your parents are in heaven,”  Alfonso declared.

I know.

Dianne E. Butts

 

And there shall be no more curse:  but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him.

Revelation 22:3

 

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org

 

Under Attack

Me: You could attack with that weapon.

Prodigal: I am sure it would cause damage.

Are you under attack? Your answer was no. Are you sure? I think you might be. Satan can be crafty, and very subtle. I think that is how he wins in others lives at times. We don’t pay attention, and before you know it Satan has come to destroy, and we allowed him to slowly come in, and set up camp.

What could satan want to take away from me? Love. Satan has been attacking love from the very beginning. In the garden of Eve, his trick caused division between God, and humans. The trick also caused division between Adam, and Eve themselves when Adam tried to blame Eve for his actions.

Satan does not want love to continue. What does satan have against love. God is love. 1 John 4:8 states, anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. Why is love a big deal, and is found in countless themes of movies, books, blogs and letters? Why do people seek out to find love? Why is there a holiday with a purpose to express love?

God is eternal, and the things of God are eternal, and God is love. God has made it so, our spirits long for him. Our spirits long for love. Satan is out to destroy God, and the things of God. Are we letting satan win this battle to destroy love. How do I allow satan to destroy love?

We allow satan to win by not fighting for love. Right now someone has a child that God gave to love. The child has is making bad decisions as they are being influenced by the world. You are so frustrated. It has been a battle for the past couple of years. You want to coast, and not fight for this child. This child still needs firm boundaries, and the boundaries need to be stated with love. Your heart has to remain in forgiveness, and love. Your heart wants to remain in anger, and hopelessness. Don’t let satan tell you to give up love.

Another person is fighting for the right to love someone. What God has brought together let no man tear apart. Satan does not want this love to exist between these two, because they will show God’s love to others together. God’s love cannot be replaced so easily. You have to wait on this love or you do without. God never said it would be easy. Look at us. Are we easy to be loved by God? Or are we forever making mistakes, needing grace, and forgiveness. God is so patient, so why are we surprised when God calls us to be patient with others?

I think in some ways we give in to easily. We forget to fight. We forget the power that God has that can help us. We also forget that God is worth it. So many give up everyday. They emotionally give us on their children, the ones they love, and give up on God. Why do we find it so easy to do that. I think we get worn down, and forget to get build up by God’s power. Remember if we continue to fight, and not give up, God will find a way to encourage us when we need it most.

I don’t know about you, but do I really want satan to destroy love. No, I don’t want that at all. I am here to say that I see the battle, and I am staying in the battle. I am here to fight for God. I am here to fight for love.

Jennifer Van Allen

www.faithincounseling.org

www.theprodigalpig.com

Tyranny of the Urgent

Prodigal:  What a beautiful rainbow!

Me:  I was so busy trying to get to the car I almost did not see it.

Prodigal:  Sometimes we need to just look up.

This is from the book Quest for Character by Charles Swindoll

Though we’ve promised ourselves and the Lord it would be different this year, many of us continue to wrestle with a stubborn, eight-armed octopus called “busy-ness.”  We continually find ourselves pushing too hard, going to fast, trying to do too much.  Am I right?  They “tyranny of the urgent”  has wrapped its powerful tentacles around yet another year, hasn’t it?  Even though you know that the secret of knowing God requires “being still”  (Psalm 46:10-the Hebrew says, Cease striving –let go, relax!), you’ve already started rationalizing your busy-ness.  By doing so, you have put the quest for character on hold.

Do you realize the dangers of a life without privacy?  Are you aware that a lack of time to be alone initiates spiritual disintegration?

I know you have plans that you think you cannot change, but the Lord is saying you need to change them so that you can be alone with Him.  Stop and be still.  It will be ok.  This is a time you need with the Lord.

Nothing shall by any means hurt you.

Luke 10:19

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org

Luke warm

 

Me:  The sun is shining upon us today.

Prodigal: Yes, and I hope that we have God’s love.

Me:  Maybe we can seek what the Lord would have us do.

 

This is from the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan

 

LUKEWARM people love others but do not seek to love others as much as they love themselves.  Their love of others is typically focused on those who love them in return, like family, friends, and other people they know and connect with.  There is little love left over for those who cannot love them back, much less for those who intentionally slight them, whose kids are better athletes than theirs, or with whom conversations are awkward or uncomfortable.  Their love is highly conditional and very selective, and generally comes with strings attached.

 

 

“You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”  But I tell you:   Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others?  Do not even pagans do that?

Matthew 5:43-47

 

 

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org

 

 

 

Being Last

Prodigal: Let’s race!

Me: I don’t know if you are going to win in that.

Prodigal: Maybe it is better not to be first.

I want to be last. That is right, pass me by please. Just move on ahead of me. Take the ribbon, take the platform, and take the mic. I plan on being last.

Well, what about the standing ovation, the line of people admiring you. The questions of how did you do it all. No please finish before me, take that spot. Well how about the money, and recognition? How about taking two months off, and sitting on a beach with no schedules for the day? Take my spot, and please make sure I am last.

Jennifer are you feeling ok? Look around, how will you get ahead if you plan to be last. Nobody wants to be last. Everybody wants to be first. Everybody wants to finish first.

I am feeling fine, I want to be last. This is something new, I was very concerned about being first before. I wanted to be the smartest. I wanted a lot of money. I wanted to be the best therapist. I wanted to even be beautiful above others. I wanted to be first.

Have you lost your confidence? Are you down on your self? No I just found where my confidence should be. I found where my focus should be.

Sometimes the world has it wrong, and I listened to the world. I did not completely understand, but once again Jesus showed me the truth.

Mark 10:29-31

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields-along with persecutions- and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

See I need to be last. This isn’t about what happens around me. This is about what happens inside me. When I said I wanted money, I wanted to be smart, I wanted to be beautiful. That became my focus. That was my life to obtain those things are maintain those things. I had to have best clothes, hair, and be physically fit. I had to continue to study everything to have all the answers. I had to work all I could to increase my money. I had to be the best therapist so that others around me could recognize these things.

As that became my pursuit, something happened to me on the inside. I was a tree that had a disease, and was decaying on the inside. At first no one would be able to notice the disease had set in, I had strong bark on the outside. The disease keeps spreading though. Eventually others will see the disease on the tree. The bark will eventually become soft, and parts will fall off. Just as the tree was effected, my speech, my choices, and relationships would be effected by this disease.

The disease had a by product that it produce inside me. That by product was pride, arrogance, selfishness, and unrest. The little choices, and sometimes the big choices were really about my pride, my selfishness and left me empty with unrest. Did others pick up on it, mostly no. I had developed a way to hide it all. I could talk, and even appear that I was unselfish about the decision. I could not run from what was happening inside of me.

What happened? God brought me a wonderful trial. He brought me to a group of people who thought I was last. I did not do things the way they did them. That was the difference. These were all preferences of how to accomplish tasks. Even though they were just preferences I found myself at the bottom. They put me at the bottom, and maybe sure they spoke to me about how I was on the bottom. The conversations would center around how I should work my way to the top.

With a constant speech with every interaction about how these people thought I was on the bottom, I was surrounded with negative thoughts focused on me. I began to seek the Lord about the truth, it was all I knew I could do.

The Lord showed me my pride, arrogance and selfishness that had been a disease inside of me. I slowly took the journey of repentance, and change. I slowly started realizing that money, beauty, being physically fit, smart, good therapist were not bad. What did need to change though was my motives behind it, and the ability to surrender all that if I needed to.

I learned that how people rank me does not matter. How the Lord ranks me is everything. That is what this scripture is telling me. Lord states some people who think they are first will be last. Some people have a disease inside of them. Maybe some of their disease is like mine, some of it is different. Some don’t know they have it, just like I was. Some of the disease is not outward in appearance yet, and they are able to hide it. It is still there. The inside of them is wrapped up in being first, and themselves.

It was by God’s grace that He was able to not only show me, but encourage me in change.

I still work out because I know God approves of me trying to take care of my body. I also know that if I could not move tomorrow that would be something I could surrender. I work to be the best therapist. I work from a heart issue to please God in my work performance. If God called me to stop being a therapist tomorrow, I would. I still like to have money, but I also enjoy giving money just as much. I still like to be called beautiful, but God sees beauty on the inside, and not just the outside. So how am I working to make myself beautiful on the inside.

So please make me last. If I am praised, it is not because of me. It is because of what God has done in me. I was full of disease, but now I am healed. The world’s rank of me really doesn’t matter to me as much anymore. I am ok if you are ranking me last right now. If this writing is last, and not that good. I am ok. God is showing me something else. God is showing me still loves me, and is still happy that I choose to write today.

As I think about it, being last is pretty peaceful, maybe you could join me.

Know therefore that the Lord Thy God, He is God, the faithful God, which kept covenant and mercy with them that Love Him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations.

Deuteronomy 7:9

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org

A Critical Heart

Prodigal:  I don’t know if I like these flowers.

Me:  Someone spent a lot of time on them.

Prodigal:  I guess I didn’t think of that.

Me: We need to watch our hearts.

This is from the book Reclaiming Your Heart by Denise Hildreth Jones

A critical heart can also be a by-product of  disappointment and can coexist with other hearts.  Disappointed hearts can easily become angry, isolated, or viciously critical.  When someone has repeatedly broken our trust, when we’ve been perpetually over-looked for that job we wanted, or when we’ve been let down by people who should have had our backs, disappointment is a natural response.  And when we refuse to deal with that disappointment by releasing it to our Father through honest prayer, praise, and singing, the disappointment can reveal itself in a critical spirit.

And though these criticisms are mostly targeted at the person we are disappointed with, that isn’t always the case.  An innocent party close at hand might just become an easy target for our frustration.  Or sometimes, when we do criticize the person who let us down, the criticism may bear little ration to the offense.

As the words pour our of our broken, wounded souls, they hurt those we’re criticizing but also reflect the true state of our hearts–because every time we open our mouths, we choose what will come out.  Proverbs 18:21 states succinctly:  “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit–you choose”

You have been disappointed.  You were suppose to be able to trust these people.  They in turn hurt you to continue to try, and win an argument.  They did not try to love, instead they wanted to just win.  The enemy would like you to become bitter.  All day yesterday, it was up, and down.  You would forgive, but then you would remember.  Keep trying to turn to Christ.  It may take every day this week but try to win the battle of forgiveness.  It is important that you are not critical right now.  Satan would like a critical heart to take over so that you do not give grace, and show the Lord’s glory to others.

That they may walk in my statues, and keep mine ordinances, and do them:  and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

Ezekiel 11:20

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org

Sing At Night

Prodigal:  It is getting dark.

Me:  Yes, but we do not have to stop.

Prodigal:  Let’s continue then.

This is from Charles Spurgeon

It is easy to sing when we can read the notes by daylight; but he is the skillful singer who can sing when there is not a ray of light by which to read, who sings from his heart, and not from a book that he can see, because he has no means or reading, save from that inward book of his own living spirit, whence notes of gratitude pour forth in songs of praise.

Right now my flesh is trying to put my spirit in darkness.  I am having thoughts of past hurts in the past month.  A part of me wants to linger on those hurts.  I know I need to forgive.  I have prayed, and looking to the Lord.  Today it seems a battle to stay focused on love, grace, and forgiveness.  I just need to praise God.  Lord I would never have known you if you did not seek me first.  Thank you for even given me the time to sit, and spend time with you.  Thank you that I have running water, air condition, and also the ability to call someone in just a second.  You really have given me so much and when I focus on that then the spirit changes to be one that is focused on you.

Ye are the salt of the earth:  but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted?  It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

Matthew 5:13

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org

My Father In Heaven

Me:  What a beautiful garden!

Prodigal:  Yes, that is what I was thinking.

Me:  What should we do?

Prodigal:  Let’s pray!

 

This is from the book So Long Insecurity by Beth Moore

 

My Father in heaven,

I thank You for breath this day to give You praise.

I thank You for a life where nothing is wasted,

a life where pain turns into purpose and Your providence

assigns a personal destiny.

You will never allow anything in my path

that cannot bring You glory or me and those around me good.

No matter what this day holds,

I am clothed with strength to overcome every obstacle and all oppression

because I belong to Jesus Christ, and His Spirit lives with me.

You, Lord, are my security.

No one and nothing can take You from me.

You will keep my foot from being caught in a trap.

I choose to turn my back on fear because You are right here with me.

I can smile over the days to come because Your plan for me

is good and right.

My heart is steadfast, trusting in You, Lord.

In the end, I will look in triumph on my foes.

Because of You,

I am secure.

In Jesus’s triumphant name,

Amen

 

Fear ye not me? saith the LORD:  will ye not tremble at my presence, which have placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it:  and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it?

Jeremiah 5:22

 

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org