Just After Seven

 

Me:  You made it through the alley by yourself!

Prodigal:  Yes, God was with me!

Me:  Let’s praise Him!

 

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

 

It was April 1968.  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had just been slain and there was civil unrest in Wilmington, Delaware.  From our second-floor apartment we saw fires across the sky-line, and we heard the sound of breaking glass nearby from looters and rioters.  There were National Guard troops in our streets and there was a strict curfew in effect.

As if that weren’t enough, there was a serial rapist at large in the city.  He had already raped five young girls.  It was frightening time for me as a fifteen year old girl.

On this particular night, my mother had gone to complete her daily welfare check on the elderly widow across the hall.  Since my grandmother’s passing, it seemed my mother created many projects to keep herself occupied–Mrs. Pope being her latest.  Poor Mrs. Pope was so terrified since the riots began that she neglected to fill her Digitalis prescription.  My mother volunteered to go pick it up but Mrs. Pope became distraught at being left alone–not ideal for someone suffering from a heart condition.  My mother called to me, instructing me to get my sweater–I was going instead.

I was afraid to go.  It was dark, I might be stopped for violating the curfew, and that serial rapist was out there.  But Mom assured me that it would be okay and that I should just show the prescription if I were stopped.  So with my prescription in hand, I grabbed my favorite red sweater with the pretty covered buttons and off I went.

The drugstore was two blocks away but it seemed like miles.  At the first corner outside our building, I was stopped and allowed to pass after showing my prescription.  The next two corners were repeats.  I felt relieved.  I finished my errand and was on my way home when I realized that the guards changed every two hours during the evening, beginning at five p.m.  It was just after seven o’clock now, so I would be seeing new guards.  And I no longer had the prescription to show them.

The first guard refused to let me pass.  I begged him to let me go, explaining our neighbor desperately needed the medication I was carrying.  His refusal was final.

I was afraid.  Would he take me to the Armory where curfew violators were detained?  The night skyline was already glowing with the fires being set by looters.  I was scared and desperate to get home.  So when the guard’s focus shifted briefly away from me, I ran.  The guard wasn’t allowed to leave his post, so I escaped.  I entered a dark, isolated alley that I typically would not have entered even in broad daylight.  The alley was in the middle of the block and just north of my apartment building.  I felt relieved that I would only need to pass one checkpoint to get home from there.

About a third of the way down the alley I felt such terrible fear well up inside me that I immediately got sick to my stomach.  I didn’t know what was wrong;  I just knew I felt overwhelmed.  I prayed to God for help and protection.  I asked Him to please protect me and get me home safely.  I kept repeating the prayer over and over.

I didn’t see anyone the entire length of the alley.  It was lined with metal trashcans while tall wooden fences and shrubs obscured the adjoining yards from view.  My fear increased the further into the alley I went but I kept praying and moving along.  Minutes later, I was safe inside our apartment.

A few weeks later, Mrs. Pope brought the morning newspaper to my mother.  She suggested my mother read the article about the capture of the serial rapist.  After finishing, tears welled up in Mom’s eyes.

The suspect had confessed to all the attacks, giving accounts of the incidents and specific details that were known only to the police detectives working the case.  He told detectives that there was one girl he really wanted but didn’t get, one who was wearing a red sweater with covered buttons.  The detectives thought this strange, considering his attacks had been escalating.

What made him back down from this would-be-victim that he clearly wanted?  He said that he was afraid to try and get the red-sweater girl, as he called her, the girl he had seen just after seven the same night that I was out, in an alley just north of our apartment.

Why?  He said that two tall men dressed in long, white choir robes were walking on either side of her.

–Ruth Barmore

 

To whom then will ye liken God?  Or what likeness will ye compare unto him?

Isaiah 40:18

 

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org

The Sun Shining

Me: The sun is shining on you!

Prodigal: It feels good.

I was on my back, and the water ebbed and flowed under me with a smoothness that was refreshing. The sun hit my face with shimmers of heat from its rays. I was on my own in the pool, and silence was all around me. It was the perfect setting to float on my back, and feel the weightlessness of my body.

In the still surrounding of tranquility, peace would have been the best way to describe the scene. That was not the case. The quieted pool only brought the loudness of my spirit to the surface.

Come to me child. We need to examine your heart. I could imagine God saying that. I knew that I would not receive any peace until I went to God. Why was I avoiding God? I had been repenting over the same issues for several days. I wanted to be in control and I was resenting God for not letting me have that control. I was aware, and I had repented, but I had not surrendered.

Why do we need to go to God to repent. He has already forgiven us. We know He will forgive us when we ask? Why do we still avoid it at times.

I had said I need forgiveness, but I was not ready to surrender my control. I only repented partial. I was not ready to give up all my control. Fear was setting in that I could not trust God with everything. How can I give up control, and think God will not fail me. I mean I have been let down by so many people who said they had my best interest at heart. God was going to let me down too.

This is why we go to the Lord again and again with repentance. Not so He can shame us with how many mistakes that we have made, but so He can show us the truth.

I thought I needed just repentance for resentment. The issues was so much larger when I went to God, and asked Him to examine my heart. The issue was that I was confusing Him with people. People who are not perfect. People who let sin lead them in decisions. God is not affected by sin. God is perfect. God knows me better than anyone else. God also loves me enough to send His son to die for me.

Going to God just allowed Him to show me more of the truth and to guide me. I was reminded me of who He really is and I can believe Him.

I was not able to stay long at the pool, but I left with a clean heart and the truths of who God is surrounding my spirit. I don’t claim to be able to hold on to these truths forever. I know there is an enemy who feeds me lies daily, and sometimes I forget the truths and focus on lies. When that happens again my friend, God will show up again. Instead of shame and condemnation, He will bask me with His love. With that love He will demonstrate that He forgot my past mistakes, my past failures and let me not forget how important I am to Him.

Psalm 103:3

who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org

The Great Problem

Me:  I think your friend is in love!

Prodigal:  I agree, head over heels!

Me:  That is a wonderful day to know you are very much loved!

This is from the book The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller

We have seen how marriage by its very nature has the power of truth and the power of love.  The power of truth is marriage’s ability to show you who you really are.  The power of love is marriage’s capacity for reprogramming your self-image, redeeming the past, and healing your deepest hurts.  And now a warning is in order.

We said that if everyone else says you’re ugly, and your spouse says you’re beautiful, you feel beautiful, because you spouse’s words have that kind of power.  But that means that the reverse if also true.  If everyone says you are beautiful and your spouse says you’re ugly, you will feel ugly.  Your spouse’s opinion of you can be a terrible weapon.  Early in your marriage you will realize what power you have to hurt your spouse.  You will know his or her sensitivities like no one else.  And cutting remarks from you will go deeper than any knife.

In this fallen world, marriage’s power of truth and power of love can be at loggerheads.  The reason marriage has the power to show me what’s wrong with me is because my spouse sees me to the bottom in a way that even I can’t see myself.  That is why her affirmation, verdict, and blessing have so much credibility and power.  But here’s the problem.  My wife does not learn about my sins like my physician learns about my diseases or like my counselor learns about my anger and fear.  She knows my sins because they so often are committed against her.  She knows I’m insensitive because I’m insensitive to her.  She knows I’m selfish because I’m selfish to her.

A focus on love needs to be given today.  A day to heal and a day to be reminded that the Lord has given us someone special and they are a blessing!

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

2 Corinthians 5:21

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org

Vision

Me:  Here is another ministry for women.

Prodigal:  Yes, and Christ should be the foundation for all.

Me:  I agree with that!

This is from the book Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders

A vision without a task makes a visionary.

A task without a vision is drudgery.

A vision with a task makes a missionary.

Stay focused on the path Christ has for you right now.  This is about staying the course with Christ.  There are distractions right now around you,but you have to stay with the vision.  The vision that Christ has been showing you all week.  Remember Christ started this and we should listen to His guidance.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org

God Has Always Had

Prodigal:  I just finished reading.

Me:  Was it something good.

Prodigal:  It was not only truth but encouraging.

Me:  We will share then.

This comes from the book Growing Deep in the Christian Life by Charles Swindoll

God has always had a people, a people who believe by faith,

who trust and obey His Word, a people whose God is the Lord.

Many a foolish conqueror has made the mistake of thinking that because he had forced the Church of Jesus Christ out of sight, He had stilled its voice and snuffed out its life.

But God has always had a people;  He has always had a people who believe; that believe His Word, a people whose God is the Lord.

The powerful current of a rushing river is not diminished because it is forced to flow underground.  The purest water is the stream that bursts crystal clear into the sunlight after it has forced its way through solid rock.

There have been charlatans, like Simon the magician, who sought to barter on the open market that power which cannot be bought or sold.  But, God has always had a people…men who could not be bought, and women who were beyond purchase.  God has always had a people–people who believe by faith!

There have been times of affluence and prosperity when the Church’s message has been diluted into oblivion by those who sought to make it socially attractive, neatly organized, and financially profitable.

It has been gold-plated, draped in purple, and encrusted with jewels.  It has been misrepresented, ridiculed, lauded, and scorned.

These followers of Jesus Christ has been, according to the whim of the times, elevated as sacred leaders, and martyred as heretics.  Yet, through it all there marches on that powerful army of the meek–God’s chosen people who cannot be bought, flattered, murdered, or stilled!  On through the ages they march!

God has always had a people–the Church, God’s Church triumphant!  God has always had a people, followers of Jesus–chosen people.  A people who believe by faith, who trust and believe His Word, a people whose God is the Lord.  God has always–always–had a people!

For thou has been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.  I will abide in thy tabernacle forever:  I will trust in the covert of thy wings.

Psalm 61:3-4

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org

I Take God

Me:  Today is the day that the Lord has made.

Prodigal:  Yes,  who knows what the Lord will provide.

Me:  Let’s begin with a focus on Christ.

These are the words that Philip Henry, father of Matthew Henry wrote for his children.

I take God to be my chief end and highest good.

I take God the Son to be my prince and Savior.

I take God the Holy Spirit to be my sanctification,

teacher, guide, and comforter.

I take the Word of God to be my rule in all my actions

and the people of God to be my people

under all conditions.

I do hereby dedicate and devote to the Lord all I am,

all I have,

and all I can do.

And this I do deliberately, freely, and forever.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain:  for the former things are passed away.

Revelation 21:4

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org

A Prince or A King

Me: That chair looks like a throne.

Prodigal: It fits me, don’t you think.

Me: Sure, you are fit for royalty.

I had a busy day at the office, and my introverted self did not want to talk to anyone when I got home. The perfect night after this day was going to watch Netflix. I just wanted to indulge myself, and recharge from the day.

I decided on a foreign show to watch that night. Something different than anything I experience on a daily basis. It was another culture, another time in history, and different beliefs. I clicked on the play button for the show, and my attention was engrossed in the story line that was unfolding.

A prince had made a friend in the palace. This friend had been challenged for several days with certain duties she had to perform. They show her running around hectic and, pushing through all the demands she had. The prince noticed she had not been eating because of her taxing obligations. He took it upon himself to make sure that she had food to eat. Several scenes show him appearing at different times just to give her food. One time she only got a single bite to eat but it helped her at that one moment.

I started thinking how nice. That is very thoughtful that in a busy week someone stops to make sure that their was food available. That nourishment is vital to being able to replenish the energy needed to continue with the task at hand. I started thinking how a prince helping me like that would be wonderful with some of my obligations.

That it when it hit me immediately. I don’t have a prince feeding me, I have a king.

John 6:35

And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.

My king makes sure that when the world’s thoughts, and motives are surrounding me on a hectic day, He is their with a morsel of truth. I am running between appointments but a bible verse shows up that feeds me for the hour. I have several phone calls to make and a song comes on that helps me worship my God for one minute. I am trying to focus on task at hand and develop plans and, a person reminds me that God is there. I am weary after a long day and the Lord makes sure that my devotion shows me that He sees my weariness.

My king shows up day and night to make sure that I am feed.

It was not always like that. When I thought it was my kingdom and I ruled. I had to do it alone. No one was there to give me the smallest morsel of food or encouragement. I had to find it on my own.

I then acknowledge Jesus as the ruler of this kingdom and since then He reaches out in personal ways to make sure that I know He is watching and He cares. I never know when He will show up next, or how He will show up, but this I know. He has showed up so many days and, hours already that I do not doubt His love for me. Even when I do doubt His love at an especially difficult time, my king shows up then also.

How special that makes me feel, and how cherished I feel from that acknowledgement. God’s word is truth and, His promises are real. Some have not seen how our King really serves us. They think that cannot be true. I have to do it all on my own. Our king could not love me like that because of my faults.

The Lord does not love us for faults or perfection. He loves us just because we are part of his kingdom. He loves us because a great King would love those who He rules. A great King would make sure his subjects are not without support.

I went back to my show. I did not think that the woman had a better deal than me. I knew that my king and, the kingdom that I was in was far better and had so many possibilities. I could only pray that she would know that kingdom one day if she does not already. May you know what our kingdom is really like and the King that we really serve!

Matthew 6:11

Give us this day our daily bread.

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org

Lukewarm

Me:  How is the water?

Prodigal:  It is lukewarm.

Me:  That might be good for swimming but the Lord does not like that.

This is from the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan

LUKEWARM PEOPLE attend church fairly regularly.  It is what is expected of them, what they believe “good Christians” do, so they go.

“The Lord says:  “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men” (Isa. 29:13)

LUKEWARM  PEOPLE give money to charity and to the church….as long as it doesn’t impinge on their standard of living.  If they have a little extra and it is easy and safe to give, they do so.  After all, God loves a cheerful giver, right?

“King David replied to Araunah, ‘No, I insist on paying the full price.  I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing” (1 Chron. 21:24).

“As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.  He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.  ‘ I tell you the truth, ‘ he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others.  All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on” (Luke 21:1-4)

LUKEWARM PEOPLE tend to choose what is popular over what is right when they are in conflict.  They desire to fit in both at church and outside of church; they care more about what people think of their actions (like church attendance and giving) than what God thinks of their hearts and lives.

“Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets” (Luke 6:26)

“I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead” (Rev. 3:1)

“Everything they do is done for men to see:  They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them “Rabbi” (Matt. 23:5-7)

For, brethren, you have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

Galatians 5:13

Jennifer Van Allen

www.theprodigalpig.com

www.faithincounseling.org