Ending and Beginning

Prodigal: I’m plum tired after all that climbing.

Me: It is time for a short break then.

This is from the book No Wonder They Call Him the Savior by Max Lucado

My, what an ending. Or, better said, what a beginning! Don’t miss the promise unveiled in the story of Jesus. For those of us who, like the apostles, have turned and run when we should have stood and fought, this passage is pregnant with hope. A repentant heart is all he demands. Come out of the shadows! Be done with your hiding! A repentant heart is enough to summon the Son of God himself to walk through our walls of guilt and shame. He who forgave his followers stands ready to forgive the rest of us. All we have to do is come back.

No wonder they call him the Savior.

Joshua 1:8

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

Jennifer Van Allen



An Angel in the Wilderness

Me: You do look right smart.

Prodigal: I am trying to impress

This is from the book Angels Beside You by James Pruitt

The date is May 5, 1864. The place is a dark woodland south of the Rapidan River, ten miles west of Fredericksburg, Pennsylvania.

On the morning of the fifth, Generals Ulysses S. Grant and George Gordon Meade were notified that Confederate forces under General Richard Stoddert Ewell were moving on the Orange Turnpike, thinking the force to be only a division, Grant ordered an attack. Union forces under General Governor Warren engaged the Confederate force, an encounter that soon escalated into a full-fledged battle. Grant soon realized that the Confederate troops were not a minor element of General Robert E. Lee’s army, but the main force itself.

Because of the thick woods, the men were often firing at one another at point blank range. Battle lines became confused in the smoke-filled woods; regiments lost contact with one another. Commanders led their men by following the sounds of firing, often finding themselves shooting at each other or at the muzzle flashes of an enemy they could not see.

To add to the confusion, Confederate General A.P. Hill began to advance with his forces up the Orange Plank Road to the south. There he was met by Union General Winfield Scott Hancock, and a separate and equally desperate battle ensued. Again the battle was fought at close quarters, often hand-to-hand, with bayonets and rifles used as clubs. All day the fighting surged back and forth, with ground being taken, held for an hour, lost in a counterattack, then retaken. As evening fell, nothing significant had been gained by either side, and the forces retired to whatever makeshift lines they could form before darkness fell.

Grateful for the opportunity at last to get some rest, men from both sides of the bloody conflict soon found that even darkness would not allow them to escape the suffering and misery that had marked the day’s terrible events. A new enemy now unleashed its wrath upon the wounded and dying who lay in the tangles and wood-chocked gullies of the confusing battlefield. The new enemy was fire.

In the bitter fighting just before dark, the musket flashes had started a number of small fires that now erupted into a full-fledged forest fire. Caught in the path of the blaze were the dead and wounded of both armies who were strewn all through the woods. Soon the magnitude of the situation became fully known as men screamed in agonizing pain when the flames began to consume the wounded. Piercing cries and pleas for death echoed through the darkness. The air began to fill with the smell of burning flesh. It was more than even these hardened veterans could stand.

Sergeant William Neil of the 27th Virginia Regiment of the famed Stonewall Brigade went to his commander, Lieutenant Colonel Charles L. Haynes, and requested that the colonel attempt to arrange a truce so that both sides might join to remove the wounded from the path of the fire. The colonel agreed and told the sergeant to organize volunteers for the dangerous task while he made arrangements with Union forces holding the positions across from them.

Among the Virginia volunteers was a young Rebel soldier named Joshua Bates, the son of a Baptist minister who had disowned his only son for engaging in this awful war.

The truce arranged, Sergeant Neil and ten volunteers put their weapons aside and went to meet a Union sergeant and ten of his unarmed men in a clearing between the lines. The two squads braved the heat and the flames of the fores fire to bring out their wounded brothers in arms, without regard to the color of their uniforms.

The mission of mercy continued for over an hour, with the wounded hastily carried back to the clearing, where others tended them and moved them farther back behind the lines. But even with this effort, not all could be rescued. The screams of the less fortunate carried on the night air filled with smoke, heat, and the smell of burning meat. Still the rescuers returned time after time in an effort to save as many possible from such a terrible death.

Weary from running back and forth and suffering from near heat exhaustion, Private Bates and three others returned once more into the flames to retrieve a soldier screaming this his pants were on fire. Locating the man, Bates dropped to his knees and threw dirt onto the burning pants to put out the fire.

As the rescuers prepared to pick up the wounded man, they heard a loud cracking sound and saw a towering tree in all its fiery glory crash down between them and the only way out of the fire. The rescuers themselves were now surrounded by the roaring blaze that quickly began to close in on them. There were no avenues of escape, and any hope of rescue was impossible. One of the soldiers cried out, “My God….we’re all going to die!”

Kneeling beside the wounded soldier, Private Bates encouraged those around him to join hands as he prayed.

“Oh Lord, our task this night has been a mighty one. We have risked all to save our fellow man. Would you now reward us for showing compassion by committing us to this fiery furnace? We beseech you, Almighty God….come to our aid in this time of great need. In your name, we ask. Amen.”

From their tightly knit group within the surrounding flames, the four men saw a lone figure appear beyond the fire. It was a figure of unusual height, dressed not in a uniform but in what appeared to be a white sackcloth robe. The figure raised a hand and called to the men surrounded by the flames, “Come out, hurry! Come this way and bring your wounded brother.”

Hesitant at first, the men looked at one another, then back to the figure who now seemed to move directly into the flames, yet was unharmed by the fire. Again the calm and gentle voice told them to follow him. Still uncertain, but having little to lose, the four men picked up the wounded soldier and began moving toward the figure in the fire. As they neared the flames the figure turned and walked away. As it did, a sudden wind swept over the men and the wall of flame seem to split apart, leaving an opening of some twenty feet. Without delay, Bates and the others hurried through the exit. Within seconds they were free of the raging fire that immediately consumed the very area in which had been kneeling only minutes before.

Scurrying clear of the heat and flames, the men placed the wounded man on the ground and looked around for the figure who had encouraged them to escape certain death, but no one was there. They were the only ones in the immediate area. The mysterious figure had vanished.

Bates survived the Civil War and returned home, where he became a Baptist preacher and was often requested to relate his story of the miracle that had occurred in the bloody battle of the Wilderness.

Psalm 103:1

Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

Jennifer Van Allen



Women Lovin’ Jesus

Prodigal: I love how it is looking.

Me: Still have more to work on.

This is a video devotion on Proverbs.

click here to watch the video

Proverbs 7:11

She is loud and rebellious, her feet would not stay at home. (NKJV)

Jennifer Van Allen



Follower of Christ

Me: I am proud to follow Christ.

Prodigal: Me too, it defines my whole identity.

This is from the book Sister Freaks: Stories of Women Who Gave Up Everything for God by Rebecca St. James

Like a crudely fashioned bracelet, Mulahn’s wrist is encircled in marred flesh–a result of torture at the hands of Muslim kidnappers. Captors singed her skin with sulfuric acid, erasing the carefully tattooed cross there. The cross had been Mulahn’s quiet proclamation that she was a Christian amid a culture of Islam. Somehow, Egyptian captors determined to sear Christ from her heart by burning her skin.

Mulahn grew up in Egypt in a Christian home. Her family represented a small religious minority in Egypt–the Coptic Christians numbering six million. Islamic fundamentalists began targeting Coptics in the 1990’s, believing them to be a real threat to Islam.

These Islamic zealots roamed the streets, looking for Coptics to harass and abduct. Mulahn’s closely woven community lived against that constant backdrop of worry, wondering if that day would bring yet another abduction. They were very cautious about whom they trusted and where they traveled.

On one ordinary day, a group called the Gamat Islamiya abducted 18 year old Mulahn while she was visiting friends. They spirited her away, and her abductors raped her repeatedly. They knew that if they did so, they’d essentially ruin Mulahn’s life–if they stole her innocence, they stole her ability in her culture ever to marry.

Everything they did was deliberate. Every torture they invented had a purpose: to dissuade her from Christianity and her culture.

During the ordeal, her captors moved her in stealth, blind folded and brutalized, to dingy hideouts. They worked day and night to convert her heart and mind to Islam and undermine her connection to Jesus Christ. “Pray to Allah!” they demanded. To survive, Mulahn had to do as they said, bowing low to the ground facing Mecca.

The kidnappers made Mulahn memorize pages of the Koran. Through sleep and food deprivation, mind-numbing memorization sessions, forced prayer, and repeated rape, Mulahn began to bend to her captors’ wishes.

Mulahn’s traumatized father sought help from the Cairo police. “You must find her,” he told them. “They will torture her.” Hot tears erupted from his dark eyes. “You must find her.”

“Forget Mulahn,” a police officer told him. “She’s now safe in the hands of Islam.”

“You don’t understand. They have taken my daughter.”

“You don’t understand!” the officer shot back. “You must sign this now.” He shoved a document toward Mulahn’s father, handing him a pen. The piece of paper declared that he would not search for his daughter. “Sign it!”

“I cannot sign this.”

“If you don’t, you will be responsible for any harm that comes her way. If your family searches, for her, she will be hurt. Mulahn is safe. She is being retrained in the ways of Islam. If you love her, you will leave her alone. Allah will take care of her.”

With shaking hand, Mulahn’s father signed the document, his tears blurring his signature. Still, he searched for her in secret, relentless in his pursuit.

During her “retraining,” Mulahn’s kidnappers required her to wear a veil, the traditional hijab Islamic women wear for the sake of modesty. Initially she refused. “They warned me that if I removed it, they would throw acid on my face.” she later recounted. After days upon days of brain washing torture, she acquiesced to her captors and signed papers saying she was convert to Islam. She quit fighting the veil.

And then, one day, she escaped.

A clandestine group called Servants of the Cross arranged for her rescue. This group sheltered her, nourished her. It protected her from harm and kept her safe from her captors.

Egyptian Shari’a law considers conversion from Islam to Christianity illegal–an offense that carries a swift death sentence. Even so, the Servants helped Mulahn find her way back to Christianity. Instead of demanding she shroud herself in a veil, the Servants gave her light. Instead of depriving her, they gave her food. Instead of forcing her to pray, they prayed for her.

The group helped Mulahn in other ways too. Because Egyptian law places the sole blame upon rape victims, not the rapists, the state often gives the victims a death sentence. Other rape victims are not allowed to marry; they are considered damaged. But the Servants introduced Mulahn to a Christian who later became her husband.

One Servant explained, “I supervised between thirty and thirty-five re-conversions every month. In all Egypt there are between seven thousand and ten thousand cases of forced conversions to Islam. It is our duty to save them.”

With the help of the Servants of the Cross, a tattooist place another cross on Mulahn’s wrist, just above her bracelet of torture. Today, she dares to be a follower of Jesus Christ–in a culture that longs to sear His cross from their land with disfiguring acid.

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

James 1:12

Jennifer Van Allen



Hatred Will Break Your Back

Me: Lord help me stay focused on you today!

Prodigal: Amen!

This is from the book In the Grip of Grace by Max Lucado

Oh, the gradual grasp of hatred. Its damage begins like the crack in my windshield. Thanks to a speeding truck on a gravel road, my window was chipped. With time the nick became a crack, and the crack became a winding tributary. Soon the windshield was a spider web of fragments. I couldn’t drive my car without thinking of the jerk who drove too fast. Though I’ve never seen him, I could describe him. He is some deadbeat bum who cheats on his wife, drives with a six-pack on the seat, and keeps the television so loud that neighbors can’t sleep. His carelessness blocked my vision. (Didn’t do much for my view out the windshield either.)

Ever heard the expression “blind rage”?

Let me be very clear. Hatred will sour your outlook and break your back. The load of bitterness is simply too heavy. Your knees will buckle under the strain, and your heart will break beneath the weight. The mountain before you is steep enough without the heaviness of hatred on your back. The wisest choice–the only choice–is for you to drop the anger. You will never be called upon to give anyone more grace than God has already given you.

Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the scepter of thy kingdom is a right scepter.

PSALM 45 : 6

Jennifer Van Allen



Women Lovin’ Jesus

Prodigal: You are dropping off to a stick.

Me: It must be all the running around.

Prodigal: Let’s sit a spell and watch a video.

This is a video devotion on Proverbs.

click here to watch the video

Proverbs 7:10

And behold, the woman meets him, dressed as a prostitue, wily of heart. (ESV).

Jennifer Van Allen



Tolerance Grows

Prodigal: Look at all the turtles getting along.

Me: Yes, and their unity is noticeable.

This is from the book Open Heart and Open Home by Karen Burton Mains

In order to become a family we must learn to know one another. Once we know, we can love, for loving does not come unaccompanied by understanding. We must learn to talk to one another, to tell who we are, and why we are the way we are, and who we hope to become. Tolerance grows in our Body because we have had honest glimpses of those inner men. Sensitized through the work of the Holy Spirit, we become able to breathe deep draughts of compassion. Our hearts become opened to Him, and opened to one another, and His love is able to flow through us to our brothers.

Some have not developed the best way to share their thoughts and feelings. Do not be discouraged or upset with them. We are to be patient. We are to ask the Holy Spirit to see them through His eyes and heart. We have needed plenty of patience in the past for ourselves, now we serve another in the same way.

Jonah 1:16

Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows.

Jennifer Van Allen



Comfort in Time of Need

Me: God really is there for us.

Prodigal: God is a God of consistency.

This is from the book God Will Make a Way: Stories of Hope

Dave Berland was on his way to work at 4:00 in the morning on January 31, 1987. As he drove along the left-hand lane of the interstate, he started up a long upgrade–and that is the last thing he remembers about that morning.

According to witnesses, a van was parked on the median, half on the shoulder and half in the lane in which Dave was driving. He hit the right rear of the van, shot across the median and all four lanes of oncoming traffic, ran up the side of the hill to the right of the freeway, and then rolled back down into a ravine.

Dave was unconscious during most of the accident itself, but as he lay on the operating table, nervous and frightened, he asked the Lord to give him a word of comfort. The Lord spoke back to his heart in song, reminding him of the words of a praise tape he had recently received. “a very present help in trouble.” He closed his eyes and felt someone lay a hand on his chest. He didn’t open his eyes, but instead held onto the hand. To him, that warm hand was God’s own hand of protection on his life. A great peace engulfed him.

During his recovery from the surgery, song after song came to his mind. The Holy Spirit used music, which Dave had loved all his life, to comfort him and to build him up both spiritually and emotionally. The stronger his spirit and emotions, of course, the more quickly his body healed.

I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you

John 14:18

Jennifer Van Allen



Women Lovin’ Jesus

Prodigal: What a beautiful day!

Me: Let’s praise God for some of what we have today.

Prodigal: Yes, We have so much to be thankful for.

This is a short video devotion on proverbs.

click here to watch the video

Proverbs 7:9

In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night.

Jennifer Van Allen



Created in the Right Image

Me: What a beautiful image to capture the heart of Dunedin.

Prodigal: Yes, we are created in an image also.

Me: Yes, we are!

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

How can we not have value when we were created in the image of the Creator himself? And yet the enemy of our heart would try to convince us that we were created in the image of something broken or damaged. Oh, what a liar he is! And how deadly the fallout of the shamed heart can be–because that basic lie can spawn one false belief after another that not only keeps us trapped in the box of shame but can also endanger our very souls.

You are not the lie that is the enemy is telling you. It may seem loud at this time. It may seem overwhelming. Do not listen. Instead listen to the voice of your shepherd. He has cared for you and loved you this whole time. The enemy would like to separate you from this shepherd. The shepherd just wants what is best for you!

Romans 15:13

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jennifer Van Allen