A Passion for Excellence

Me: That is an excellent sand castle!

Prodigal: Thank you!

This is from the book The Applause of Heaven by Max Lucado

The push for power has come to shove. And most of us are either pushing or being pushed.

I might point out the difference between a passion for excellence and a passion for power. The desire for excellence is a gift of God, much needed in society. It is characterized by respect for quality and a yearning to use God’s gifts in a way that pleases him.

There are certain things you can do that no one else can. Perhaps it is parenting, or constructing houses, or encouraging the discouraged. There are things that only you can do, and you have an instrument and a song, and you owe it to God to play them both sublimely.

But there is a canyon of difference between doing your best to glorify God and doing whatever it takes to glorify yourself. The quest for excellence is a mark of maturity. The quest for power is childish.

God wants you to know that the person really is seeking power. There is a cleaver mask. The real selfish motive has not been discovered yet. Do not allow the charming mask to persuade you to invest to deeply in this person. We are to avoid entanglements with others who are pursing self and not God. Distant yourself and don’t start down this path with them.

Mark 10:25

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Jennifer Van Allen



The Story of the Praying Hands

Prodigal: What a beautiful pose!

Me: Yes, and it reminds me of a story.

About 1490 two young friends, Albrecht Durer and Franz Knigstein, were struggling young artists. Since both were poor, they worked to support themselves while they studied art.

Work took so much of their time and advancement was slow. Finally, they reached an agreement: they would draw lots, and one of them would work to support both of them while the other would study art. Albrecht won and began to study, while Franz worked at hard labor to support them. They agreed that when Albrecht was successful he would support Franz who would then study art.

Albrecht went off to the cities of Europe to study. As the world now knows, he had not only talent but genius. When he had attained success, he went back to keep his bargain with Franz. But Albrecht soon discovered the enormous price his friend had paid. For as Franz worked at hard manual labor to support his friend, his fingers had become stiff and twisted. His slender, sensitive hands had been ruined for life. He could no longer execute the delicate brush strokes necessary for fine painting. Though his artistic dreams could never be realized, he was not embittered but rather rejoiced in his friend’s success.

One day Durer came upon his friend unexpectedly and found him kneeling with his gnarled hands intertwined in prayer, quietly praying for the success of his friend although he himself could no longer be an artist. Albrecht Durer, the great genius, hurriedly sketched the folded hands of his faithful friend and later completed a truly great masterpiece known as “The Praying Hands.”

Today art galleries everywhere feature Albrecht Durer’s works, and this particular masterpiece tells an eloquent story of love, sacrifice, labor and gratitude. It has reminded multitudes world around of how they may also find comfort, courage and strength.

2 Corinthians 7:1

Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

Jennifer Van Allen



Women Lovin’ Jesus

Prodigal: I am having fun!

Me: Sometimes we need to just let our hair down.

This is a short video devotion on Proverbs.

Click here to watch the video

Proverbs 12:4 An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, But she who causes shame is like rottenness to his bones.

Jennifer Van Allen



Arrangements of Life

Prodigal: Yummy!

Me: That arrangement sure looks good!

Prodigal: I bet it taste better.

This is from the book Joseph: A Man of Integrity and Forgiveness by Charles Swindoll

In His great arrangement of life, He does not discount man’s sin; He deals with it. He deals with the hard questions of life. Not questions like how do I make a living, but how do I make a life? Not how do I spend my time, but how do I spend eternity? And not so much how do I get along with the person who sits next to me, but ultimately, how do I get along with God? When we answer the hard questions correctly, all the others fall into place.

May we be models of diligence, honesty, compassion, creativity. May our work be an extension of our integrity. And may each one of us who names the name of Christ as our Lord be a positive influence on those around us and a faithful representative and ambassador for Him who loved us and gave Himself for us.

Then he fell on his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept; and Benjamin wept on his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept on them, and afterward his brothers talked with him.

Genesis 45:14-15

Jennifer Van Allen



My Interstate Navigator

Prodigal: I am going for a drive.

Me: Let God be with you.

This is from the book Chicken Soup for the Soul: Angels and Miracles by Amy Newmark

I was zooming down Interstate 80, heading east in Pennsylvania. The beautiful mountains covered with lush greenery loomed above both sides of the highway. Every few miles a farm appeared nestled among the rolling hills. It was a beautiful day with no weather issues and very little traffic.

But I couldn’t really enjoy it. I was rushing to Lehigh Valley Hospital, where my mom had suffered a setback. She had called me at work just two hours before, crying that she needed me. As her daughter and a nurse, I couldn’t ignore her plea. I left work and drove home to throw some clothes into a suitcase and let my husband know where I was going and why.

In an effort to calm my mother, I had promised her, “I’ll be right there.” What was I thinking? It was a three-hour trip.

Ahead I saw a large tractor-trailer laden with lumber. The load was held in place with multiple straps. As I looked at the trailer, I started to fell uneasy.

A voice said clearly, “Those straps are going to break.”

“What?” I asked incredulously.

The voice elaborated. “The straps are going to break and that lumber is going to spill onto the road.”

“Holy Mother of God!” I thought, panicked at what the voice was telling me. I was a few car lengths behind the truck and we were both moving at about seventy miles per hour.

The voice urged, “Pass him. Get away from him. Do it now!”

I obeyed, but when I pulled into the passing lane, the truck accelerated. This was creepy. I increased my speed enough to overtake the truck and kept an eye on the hazardous load.

Horrified, I watched as the straps holding the stacks of lumber in place started snapping, one by one, and twirling around uselessly in the air. Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion. When the third strap broke, the lumber started to shift.

The voice said authoritatively, “Pedal to the metal; get away from him as fast as you can.”

I didn’t question the voice, I floored it.

As my small sedan pulled away from that big truck, I watched the scene unfold in my rear view and side mirrors. The stacks of wood rotated sideways and cascaded onto the road. The first pieces missed the back of my car by a few feet. I saw the truck slow down and could see the look of horror on the driver’s face as he realized what was happening. He could clearly see the lumber slide off his truck onto both eastbound lanes of Route 80.

I safely pulled away and my speed returned to normal as I viewed the spectacle in the rear view mirror. I watched as the trucker brought his vehicle to a stop.

I offered up a prayer of thanks for having heard the voice. There was no doubt in my mind that God was my navigator on the interstate that day.

–Nancy Emmick Panko

Romans 5:17

For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

Jennifer Van Allen



Women Lovin’ Jesus

Me: That possum’s on the stump!

Prodigal: Well I tried!

This is a short video devotion.

click here to watch the video

Proverbs 12:3 A man is not established by wickedness, but the root of the righteous cannot be moved. (NKJV)

Jennifer Van Allen



Niagara Falls

Prodigal: It is very pretty, but it is not quite Niagara Falls is it?

Me: I agree, but I can share a story about Niagara Falls.

This is from the book All of Grace by C.H. Spurgeon

Years ago, a boat was upset above Niagara Falls. Two me were being carried down the current when people on the shore managed to float a rope out to them. Both seized it. One of them held on to it and was safely drawn to the bank. However, the other, seeing a great log come floating by, unwisely let go of the rope and clung to the log for it was bigger and apparently better to cling to. The log with the man on it went right over this vast abyss because nothing connected the log and the shore. The size of the log was no benefit to him who grasped it; it needed a connection with the shore to produce safety.

So when a man trusts to his works or to sacraments or to anything of that sort, he will not be saved, because there is no junction between him and Christ. However, faith, though it may seem to be like a slender cord, is in the hands of the great God on the shore. Infinite power pulls in the connecting line between God and faith and thus draws the man from destruction. Oh, the blessedness of faith because it ties us to God!

The apostles said unto the Lord, increase our faith

Luke 17:5

Jennifer Van Allen



Sacrificing Our Own Wills

Me: I could quilt all day!

Prodigal: Do you have that time.

Me: No, but I will enjoy this little part that I have.

This is from J. Keble

We must be continually sacrificing our own wills, as opportunity serves, to the will of others; bearing, without notice, sights and sounds that annoy us; setting about this or that task, when we had far rather be doing something very different; persevering in it, often, when we are thoroughly tired of it; keeping company for duty’s sake, when it would be a great joy to us to be by ourselves; besides all the trifling untoward accidents of life; bodily pain and weakness long continued, and perplexing us often when it does not amount to illness; losing what we value, missing what we desire; disappointment in other persons, wilfulness, unkindness, ingratitude, folly, in cases where we least expect it.

If any man offend not in word, the same is perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. James 3:2 (KJV)

Jennifer Van Allen



Women Lovin’ Jesus

Prodigal: Time to put up the ole tree.

Me: Yes, and sing Christmas Songs.

This is a short video devotion on Proverbs.

click here to watch the video

Proverbs 12:2 A good man obtains favor from the LORD, but a man of evil devices he condemns. (ESV)

Jennifer Van Allen



Do Not Faint

Prodigal: This is a lot to carry. I am feeling tired.

Me: Don’t faint, you will make it.

This is from John Claypool

Now I am sure that to those looking for the spectacular this may sound insignificant indeed. Who wants to be slowed to a walk, to creep along inch by inch, just barely above the threshold of consciousness and not fainting? That may not sound like much of a religious experience, but believe me, in the kind of darkness where I have been, it is the only form of the promise that fits the situation. When there is no occasion to soar and no place to run, and all you can do is trudge along step by step, to hear of a Help that will enable you “to walk and not faint” is good news indeed.

Don’t give up. Keep the standing. The Salvation of the Lord is near!

John 14:1

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.

Jennifer Van Allen