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Written by Karen Cole

“Going deep” makes me feel very vulnerable and I really don’t feel comfortable in that space at all. I would much rather put on my “happy ministry face” and take the blows. I’m comfortable with taking responsibility for making sure there are always peaceful and happy outcomes – “like I really control outcomes”. But God, who is faithful, just, true, kind, merciful and all-knowing, knew what I needed to hear this weekend at the Women’s Leadership Summit and who I needed to be around. Truly, He orchestrated it all!

I was blown away by the many ministries led by women who attended the Summit and the many burdens they carry. These women made me feel safe; as if I could be myself. I was accepted even though they had their own personal reasons for attending. The material was presented by Margie Brubaker and her daughter Charlanne Wolff (“A Wardrobe of Gracious Influence”) – what an awesome pair!

They gently guided us through four amazing sessions that challenged, encouraged and personally helped me see “ministry to women” from a different and more supportive perspective. Yes, I was tired, overwhelmed, overloaded with information and yet there was a peace and calm that allowed me to receive refreshment for my own soul.

The challenge to be more intentional about my “self-awareness and self-care” was a big take away for me. Ministry involves a lot of “doing” and “going.” There does not seem to be much time for me to be me and take care of my spiritual, emotional or physical self. There does not seem to be enough time to spend time genuinely connecting with other women. Even greater than that, I struggle with having substantial and intimate time alone with God, my Creator.

This past weekend was transformational for me. My “alone time with God” is being put back in its rightful place. God has brought me to be vulnerable and know my truth. So what is your truth? Are you willing to admit it, own it and make sure it lines up with God’s truth? I am challenging myself and other women in ministry to embark on this spiritual journey along someone else. Allow that person to help find truth and freedom from the fear that hold one back from daring to put on a “wardrobe of gracious influence”!

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Karen loves to pray, encourage, sing and laugh out loud. She has been married 29 years to Bill Cole. Both she and Bill serve at Eastside Grace Brethren church where Bill is an Elder. Karen serves as Women’s Ministry leader, a Titus 2 Small group leader, choir member and backup worship leader for 1st service. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading, scrapbooking and card making in her free time. Her favorite passage of scripture is Ephesians 3:19 – 21.

Valued by Him

Written by Cassie Harris

The tears of the women surrounding me said it all. There’s nothing like women learning from, and loving on each other.

I had begrudgingly walked into the weekend class which started Friday evening. In the last two years of serving in women’s ministries, I had learned to love women. But during that particular weekend, I was too stressed. I didn’t feel I had time to add one more thing to my day, nor time to be loved by anyone; let alone love them back. I had heard how spiritually and Biblically beneficial this Women in Scripture course was. I couldn’t help it, though. My one prayer at the beginning was, “Lord, please make this worth it.”

I should have known better. Within twenty minutes, I was overwhelmed with the Biblical truth of who God had made me as a woman. I had bought into so many lies of what it meant to be a woman valued by God. It’d been such a long time since Biblical truth had broken through cultural barriers in regards to womanhood. I found myself fighting back tears whispering the simplest of truths. I was not made second class to the plan of God. God values me even though I’m a woman!

Looking around the room, I saw I was not the only one. The encouragement from Scripture broke through bondage that weekend. But it was even sweeter than that. During the weekend, I witnessed the blessing of watching women come along side other women to confirm those truths. Hugs encouraged. Tears mended. God was glorified through the women He continues to love.

At the end of the weekend, I walked away with a grateful smile. It was a blessing to dive into the Scriptures and learn forgotten or ignored truths of how God views women. It was an even greater blessing to learn those truths from other women pursuing their identity in Him.

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Written by Viki Rife

It’s kind of like the “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” question. I don’t know whether I always need to know more because of my journalism training, or if I went into journalism because I am always curious to know more.

Either way, it has been a battle for me to bridle my curiosity and not probe too deeply into people’s lives. For many years I tried to bridle my questions about God as well.

“Don’t offend Him with your questions,” was my concern. Thankfully, He has spent my lifetime convincing me He welcomes my honest questions. He has no fear of letting me discover everything about Him (not that my finite brain could ever do it, anyway!).

What happens when we free ourselves of whatever is hindering us from truly connecting with God? What happens when we dig deeply into the apparent contradictions of His Word? What are the results of spending time deeply connecting with Him in prayer?

The cry of my heart toward God continues to be, “Deeper!” I want to go deeper into His truth, into obedience of His wise counsel. I want to go deeper into understanding His heart. But sometimes I’m stymied. I don’t know how to go any deeper, yet it seems like there must be more there. I know that I haven’t exhausted all there is to know of God.

I believe we can help each other go deeper with God. So I’m asking you: How do you go deeper with God? I would love to hear from others who have this same hunger to know Him.

Worthwhile Goal

Written by Viki Rife

My life’s goal was clarified for me this past weekend. I had the chance to host a reunion of my father’s surviving siblings. They came to Indiana from Minnesota, Kentucky and California. Each was accompanied by one of their children, who stayed close by to help them out of their chairs, bring walkers, and help them remember to take their pills.

We had been planning the reunion for months, but it looked like our plans would be thwarted by the sudden death of Dad’s sister’s husband. Aunt Betty declared that she would still come. Her courage amazed me! Yet I realized that in His wisdom, God had provided her with an opportunity to spend a weekend surrounded by her own family.

We laughed and cried over memories of Uncle Paul. He was head librarian at a large public library; he also put a carpeted bathtub in the children’s department and would take his turn in it to read during his breaks. Long after his retirement, he still avidly attended Christian clowning conventions to learn new evangelism techniques. He knew everyone and everyone knew him.

Compared to him, Aunt Betty was in the shadows. Just an ordinary wife and mom, rejoicing in his recognition and never receiving any of her own. Yet she was his rock, a wise, stable woman who served others quietly but passionately.

Throughout the reunion weekend, Aunt Betty brought an amazing sense of peace and joy to the gathering. Her heart of gratitude moved me as I saw her appreciate the little things around her. She was as attentive to the needs of others as ever. It hit me that she has been one of the great inspirers of my life, not because she was great in the sight of humans, but because it was so evident that she was one of God’s faithful daughters.

As we said goodbye, I told her, “You’ve always been an inspiration to me.” She looked at me for a moment before replying, “Well, you know, sometimes you wonder if your little life makes any difference.”

It was then that it hit me what I really want to do with my life. I’d rather have a “little life” like hers than all the honors that could possibly be given. I’d rather quietly reflect the radiance of God to those around me than anything else that could be offered. Because in the end, the least shall be the greatest.

Outside the Fence

IMG_0066.JPGRecently I’ve been thinking of myself as a horse. Maybe not the most flattering thing, but it does serve as a mental picture of my walk with God.

For a long time I was content to live in the corral. I was safe and well-fed. I knew the territory and had my favorite spots to rest and play. However, lately God has been opening the gate and inviting me to venture outside the fences.

What lies out there is unknown. There may be steep cliffs, rocky ground, predators or countless other dangers. Still, there may be wide open fields where I can run and frolic; maybe even some new favorite spots to discover.

Maybe I can drink from flowing streams rather than the old rusty trough. I have a choice to make. Do I remain in the safety of the corral or venture into unknown territory with Him at the reins?

I’ve chosen the adventure. As long as I submit to His guidance, I know He will help me navigate the rocky places, steer me clear of the cliffs, protect me from predators, and best of all, set me free to run and discover the greatness of His plan for my journey.

Go ahead! Give Him the reins and walk out the gate. Adventure awaits.

~Cindy Shuler

A Bicycle Life

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It was one of those nights when I couldn’t sleep, and ended up indulging in a pity party.

“Lord,” I cried, “I feel like you’re taking away all my supports. I can no longer follow my old routines because of the demands of caregiving and my husband’s unpredictable work schedule. Things are flying at me so fast, and I don’t have time to process them. Life feels so unstable–it’s getting so hard!”

Out of nowhere I sensed His chuckling as He replied, “Yes, I finally took off your training wheels!” And I fell asleep chuckling myself.

~Viki Rife

The memory haunts me to this day.

My best friend and her sister were spending the night with their grandparents, and their Grandpa had gone to his room early because he wasn’t feeling well. When the girls were ready for bed, they went to say goodnight to him. He was looking at one of his guns, and barked at them to leave. Surprised, they backed out, and as they closed the door, they heard a shot. They opened the door and became the first witnesses of their grandfather’s gruesome death.

What haunts me most is that I only know what I overheard the adults whispering. My friends never talked about it, and I felt compelled to wait for them to bring it up. It was a hush-hush thing, an elephant in the room of our relationship. I had no idea how to minister to them, and I’m pretty sure the adults around me weren’t sure, either. Everyone chose silence.

How do we as Christians respond to a person contemplating suicide? How do we respond to the family that remains after a suicide?

These thoughts are on my mind especially today, World Suicide Prevention Day. The recent death of Robin Williams has once again brought concerns about suicide to the forefront. We’re left wondering, “Couldn’t someone have done something?”

In our upcoming GraceTouch e-newsletter, a mother who lost her son to suicide shares her story and her involvement in working with suicide prevention and postvention. She also offers guidelines for a Christian response to suicide.

The e-newsletter goes out September 15—if you are not a subscriber, you can sign up on our home page www.wgusa.org (scroll down to the green rectangle).

~Viki Rife

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