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~Written by Cassie Harris

This is my first Christmas season away from family. This is my first year to be a welcomed stranger-turned-friend in someone else’s home. This is my first Christmas without the inside jokes that come with a lifetime spent with the same four people. I should be lonely for family. I should be pining for our traditions. I miss them, but I’m not lacking family this year.

Almost two Christmases ago, God made it clear I needed to move away from my hometown and pursue His calling in my life elsewhere. I’m currently 3,000 miles away from family and, for the most part, I feel those miles and the distance they provide every day. Oddly enough however, during the time of year I should be feeling homeless and distant, I feel as if I’m with family as I spend the holiday with people I only met once.

While pondering that oddity the other morning, it struck me how the term “Family of God” was taking on a literal practicality in my young life. I feel connected to my host family because we serve the same Lord. We all share the joy, the excitement and surrender to what Christmas truly means; the birth of the awaited Messiah.

This year, God gave me the second greatest gift of all. He has given me the ability to comprehend what it means to have universal Family simply because the gift of His Son is so majestically strong. I’m away from family this year. Though my heart aches for those I hold as a familiar treasure, I can hear my God whispering, “Oh, but my daughter, your family is so much bigger.”

My Christmas is blessed. I’m still with Family.

Defining FaceTeam

~ Written by Viki Rife

Wait, what’s a FaceTeam?

There are few things as hard to explain as the FaceTeams, so maybe it would help to hear it from someone who invited us to her church to help bring new life to their women’s ministry. On Friday night, we met with the pastor and any interested ladies. On Saturday, they arranged a luncheon for women’s ministry leaders from Grace Brethren churches who were within driving distance. Saturday evening, they had a special get-acquainted event for their own ladies, with 30 women attending instead of their usual five. Here is feedback from Sharon Fay, who initiated the FaceTeam:

I just met with [our pastor] last evening about moving the Women’s Ministry forward. Our team met several weeks ago to discuss the November weekend, and some plans for the future. e are very excited about how God is going to work in and through the ladies of this church.

The FaceTeam was a very good thing… I believe it helped some of us who had been attending our Mission Conference for years to realize that it is okay to move onward in ministry. It also showed us Women’s Ministry can
look like many different things, and not just what we have been used to. It was really helpful to hear there are other churches struggling with the same issues. It was also helpful to hear there isn’t a set solution; ministry can look very different church by church. It’s our relationship with Christ and each other that is core; not that we follow a specific example.

I thought the Friday night meeting was very successful. We heard from many different ladies with many different ideas. I had to chuckle a little, because I know that before that meeting took place, most of those ladies thought we would hear from the FaceTeam what we should be doing. But instead, we were led to talk it out amongst ourselves. That was a great thing that came out of that meeting. We have some wonderful, inventive, creative, capable ladies in our church.

The luncheon was also a great time. It was exciting to hear what some of the other churches in our area were thinking and doing. Great things come out of getting a group of Christian ladies together!

The surveys were a great help. We have already met and gone over them, and have come up with several ideas we are planning on acting on in the near future. We are planning on a breakfast outside the church in February. It will be a casual get-together, as several mentioned they would like a variety of things on different days and times and accommodating different schedules is difficult.

We are planning another larger event in April. We are also planning a six- to eight-week ladies-only Sunday School Class. Lord willing, the class will be repeated throughout the year..

We want to see all of the ladies passionately pursuing Christ and using that passion to serve each other as well as those they interact with outside the Church. Keep praying for us! It would also be helpful to hear on occasion what is working for other women’s groups.

~Written Viki Rife

Sometimes I feel as if my heart is being pulled in two emotionally.

First I hear from an elderly woman who says, “I’m having trouble worshipping in my church. There is so much noise, the drum beat gives me a headache, there are all kinds of things flashing on the screen. How can I focus on God that way? I’m thinking of going to a church from a different denomination—even though I don’t agree with all their beliefs, at least they sing and preach in a way that helps me connect with God.”

Then I hear from a young woman in her thirties, “I can’t find a church where I can really worship. I’m used to a lot of upbeat music and movement. None of the churches around here help me worship God, and I come home feeling empty. How can I worship God without being with people who express their excitement?”

My heart breaks for both. Worshipping God is such an individual thing! What connects you to God? How willing are you to sacrifice your preference for the sake of others? Is there a way to bridge the gap? Can we rejoice when we see others benefitting from worship that is not our style? What if we were less concerned about our connection to God and instead focused on helping others connect?

I don’t have answers, but would love to hear your thoughts. How can we minister to each other in the music wars?

Written by Erin Shuler

It had been a rough week. It was only Wednesday. I stood in the lobby of my dorm looking out the window. The silence and darkness was a nice relief. I had just spent the last couple minutes on the phone crying to my sister because I felt overwhelmed with everything that I was trying to sort through in my head.

I had started to doubt most decisions I had made in the past six months, from what major I chose to what college I would attend. Graduating from high school and looking at all the options that were available, I had felt free. I finally had the chance to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. Nothing was holding me back; I had the rest of my life to do whatever I decided to do.

Up until the past couple of weeks, I thought I knew what my life would look like. I would go to the University of Indianapolis where I would get accepted into the nursing program. I would graduate in four years with a degree in nursing and a minor in psychology. I would then get my certificate to be a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner which would be my job for the following two years. Then I would head overseas to Africa and help those who had not yet been reached. After a couple of years I would return to the States where I would settle down, start a family, and hopefully be a stay-at-home mom.

What I did not realize, however, is that decisions you make while in the comfort of home, without having tasted what the real world is like, are a lot harder to follow through with when it is time to act based on those decisions. This is especially true when your future depends on them. It was easy to plan what I thought I wanted my life to be, but it is another thing entirely to live it.

Looking out the window in the lobby, I saw a single leaf on a tree. It was hanging on when every other leaf around it had fallen away. Just like that leaf, I am holding on when everything else seems to have fallen away. I no longer have my family, friends, church, or community to hide within. When all of that is gone, the only thing remaining is the tree and that single leaf.

That realization hit me hard. When it is just me, all I have to cling to is the tree that gave me life. The only way to live is to live one day at a time. You make the most of what you can from each day, and then, when the next day comes, you do the same. Eventually a week has passed, and then a month, and before you know it, time has flown by.

When everything else is gone, faith is there to carry you on. If you cling to it hard enough, nothing else matters. The future will work itself out. Questioning every decision will not change the path that has already been decided for a long time ago. The only thing I can do is hold on to the tree that gave me life!

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Written by Cassie Harris

“You’re in your late 20’s? Why aren’t you married yet? I’m so sorry, Sweetie, that must be so hard. I’ll be praying for you.”

I hear that often these days. It’s understandable. To be honest, in my high school, I was voted most likely to be married by 18. I’m one of the only ones that isn’t. As the days tick by and some in the church silently expect me to “pick a husband and be happy”, I find myself accepting their pity and concern. It took many long nights of excruciating prayer to realize I was not less of a woman because I don’t have a husband yet.

What happens when the stereotypical picturesque family you dreamed about as a young girl doesn’t write itself into your story? Are you less of a benefit to the Body of Christ? Does Christ make you an impact for the Kingdom only when you have a husband? If singleness is a gift, why do young adults, primarily young women, get the impression it’s a gift they should fight against?

I will be the first one to acknowledge that socially, ministry appears to be easier when you have a life partner by your side; especially as a woman. But I will also be the first one to acknowledge that, at times, God smiles at the idea that a young adult who is not married can devotedly focus on serving Him. It has been a beautiful gift to be able to pour my heart into serving the Lord through my singleness.

If God has marriage in my future, I can’t wait to see how serving Him changes with a husband by my side. But I can’t live as if God says my abundant life of service can only by activated when I marry.

As the Body of Christ, how do we best point young women towards seeing their value rather than pursuing social conformity?

Not Worth Much?

Written by Viki Rife

Three times a week, my dad spends four or five hours in a chair receiving dialysis. The other days of the week seem filled with doctor’s visits and taking care of things that used to be easy, but now those things are difficult and time-consuming. He can’t drive. He can’t see well. A stroke has severely limited his memory. Sometimes discouragement kicks in and he says, “I’m not worth much anymore, am I?”

My mother goes with him to dialysis, sitting patiently in the waiting room during his long hours back in the treatment room. She chats with others who are waiting for their spouses. The other day, she initiated a conversation with someone she hadn’t met. The woman began to enumerate all that they had been through with her husband’s illnesses.

“We moved here from another state to be closer to our family, and it has been a hard move,” she confided. “But when we came here, I started to feel better about the whole thing. Everyone at this dialysis center is so friendly.

“Our first day here there was a patient in the chair next to my husband’s who greeted everyone as they came in and out. He joked with the nurses and made us laugh. He saw I was upset, and he asked me, ‘Is the Lord taking good care of you?’ I needed that reminder that God is with me, and I thought, ‘I’m glad we’re here.’ ”

“That sounds like my husband,” my mother commented. About that time my father walked out the door from the treatment room. “That’s him!” the woman exclaimed. “That’s the man who encouraged me!”

As I helped him into the car, I fought back tears. There’s no way to help my father understand how very, very much his love for the Lord blesses others, including me, every day. You don’t have to be Billy Graham to have an impact for Christ. Our character, what comes out of our hearts, carries great impact.

How in the world can anyone measure the worth of a faithful saint?

IMG_0177.JPG~ Written by Cassie Harris

She was utterly alone. At 69, she was a widow. She had married her husband at 17 and he had done everything: the checkbook, the bills, the gas, their taxes. Her husband had wanted to teach her how to do all that, but she hadn’t seen the need for it. d could do it. That was enough. Now though, Mary realized just how much it wasn’t enough.

Quietly, Mary cracked open her Bible. She knew she’d find her beloved Savior in its pages. As she flipped through some of her husband’s favorite passages she found herself asking what the passages actually meant or her. Ed was the one who knew how to explain the Bible.

Mary felt a small tinge of frustration with herself that she had never taken the time to find herself in Christ; nor had she taken the time to learn deep Biblical truths apart from the titles of wife or mother. Who did she think she was when her husband wasn’t there to explain to her what the Bible meant?

Mary is not alone in her journey of spiritual formation. Many women, no matter their ages, find themselves spiritually bankrupt when they have to identify themselves in Christ without the assistance of their husbands or their identity as a mother. What if you’ve never allowed yourself the chance to dive deeply into the Word of God? What if you’re not confident of
your identity in Him because you were too busy doing what you thought you were expected to do?

Giving women the ability to answer those soul-deep questions is the heart of Women of Grace WGUSA. Prayerfully, we strive to show women who they are simply because they were made by God for a specific purpose and calling.

When titles and roles get stripped away, do we know who we are? Do we know we still have value in the Kingdom of God? Are we spiritually secure because we know how God views us?

Don’t wait to invest in going deeper now!

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