~ Written by Cassie Harris

More than ever before, holidays represent change in my life. 

For the past three years, instead of being with family, I’m a welcomed guest in a friend’s home. After a life of ministry, you’d think I’d be used to the situation, but this time, it’s different. This time, my immediate family isn’t with me.

Thanksgiving is my mother’s favorite holiday. I’ve learned to live in transition, but I know Mom would like nothing more than to have all her kids around the table. So, that makes Thanksgiving in this new season of life a new level of difficult.

 As I pondered the approaching Thanksgiving this year, I found a whole new level of Thanksgiving to celebrate. I was struck with the reality that I can trust God with His provision, love and grace over my family even when life looks differently than how I want it to look.

This Thanksgiving, wherever you find yourself, may you spend a moment to glory in the fact that we serve a constant, present and providing God. Even when life is in transition, He never changes. 

Thank God for His constant presence in an ever-changing world 

~ Written by Viki Rife

There are more divorces in your church than you think. The legal documents only represent a very small part of what is happening. Yes, there are couples who are still married but who do not work together as partners. Still, that is only the tip of the iceberg. Ask yourself: is there anyone within my church I wouldn’t want to partner with in a project? When we don’t want to partner with someone, we start disengaging from them. If we disengage from others, we are heading down the path of divorcing ourselves from the Church.

It’s the way we divorce ourselves from other humans that ends up causing disunity in the church. And we must remember that Jesus prayed, above all, for unity among His people. If our love for each other is supposed to be a witness to a lost world, how effective are we?

I’d like to propose a radical therapy approach to dealing with disunity of any kind. When you feel tension in your relationship with another person, before it builds any more, ask if they will commit to praying half an hour a week with you. That time of prayer could be in person or over the phone. Share prayer requests with each other and pray about them together. There is something powerful about prayer as we enter God’s presence together. We begin to understand each other, and to actually want the good we are praying for them to happen to them.

Why not try some radical therapy this week? I can assure you that God will honor your commitment to unity. You will wonder why you didn’t engage in this blessing sooner!

~ Written by Viki Rife

The summer I was 10, I had a chance to go an hour away into the mountains of California for a children’s camp. For a nature-lover like myself, it was a delightful week of breathing in the rich smell of the pine trees and learning to recognize animal tracks.  

One night in the middle of an energetic pillow fight when we were supposed to be sleeping, our counselor walked in from the nightly counselor meeting. Strangely, she didn’t scold us. Instead, she sat us down and explained that we were going to have to spend the next few days cleaning the cabin top to bottom and preparing a special program. The Board was coming! 

It wasn’t long before the significance of the announcement began to sink in. Apparently, The Board had a lot of expectations and a lot of power. We were briefed on how we should behave when the Board Members were present. We scrubbed the cabin and aired our mattresses. We even hiked the paths into the woods picking up any sticks or fallen pine cones that might obstruct the Board Members if they chose to walk there. We overheard the kitchen staff planning the meals they would serve the Board Members. In my mind, it was comparable to having the Queen of England arrive at our camp. My greatest fear was, “What if one of them tries to talk to me?”

Several days later, running with my friends to lunch, I suddenly stopped dead in my tracks. There on the porch of the dining cabin sat my grandfather, his feet propped up on the railing. 

“Grandpa, what are you doing here?” I gasped as I reached him.  

He chuckled. “Enjoying the mountains and the sunshine,” he answered. Knowing my grandpa, it was no stretch for me to picture that he had driven all the way up here to sit on this porch for a little while. The twinkle in his blue eyes warmed my heart, and I was intensely thankful for his timing. 

No Board Member could hurt me while Grandpa was here. 

After a short chat, he said, “You’d better go on in. I’ll stay here and wait for my friends.”

As I entered, my counselor hurried over to me. “Why were you talking with that Board Member?” she asked. 

“I didn’t talk to a Board Member,” I told her.

“Yes, you did. Out there on the porch,” she insisted. 

I didn’t say anything, but I was hurt at being falsely accused. She should know I was way too shy to ever talk to a Board Member. Besides, I hadn’t seen any Board Members on the porch. I would surely have died if I had. 

Then the camp director grabbed a microphone and announced, “Boys and Girls, I want you to welcome our Board.” The door opened and in walked…my grandpa and his friends! It still took me a while to wrap my head around the truth: my tender, patient grandpa with a constant hint of mischief in his eyes, the man I could confide my deepest secrets to, the one who loved me just the way I was, was a Board Member. The term no longer held any fear for me

Sometimes in my life, I think of God as an unknown Board Member making sure I don’t do anything wrong. Then I remember he is also the one who loves me beyond anything I can imagine. 

Perfect love casts out fear. 

~ Written by Viki Rife

When I admit to people what my hobby is, they laugh. Even if they’re too proper to laugh out loud, I see one side of their mouth curl up for a moment before they gain control. I’ve tried to come up with another name for my hobby, but haven’t found one that works—one that makes people nod their heads in understanding. 

Experts tell us that hobbies are good for us; they refresh and invigorate us. So what’s wrong with my hobby being something that helps me have fun? It’s the bright spot of my week; my greatest indulgence in the midst of a busy life of ministry and parental caregiving. 

Every Thursday at 3 p.m., I take a break to enjoy my hobby. First, I pick up a seventh grader and an eighth grader from our church. Then we drive, with a mix of prayers and chattering, to the public school near our church. There we meet up in the science lab with other volunteers. Soon, about 30 first-through-sixth-grade girls come streaming in. We play games or do crafts. Then we move to one of the classrooms for my favorite part. I get to tell them about The Teacher.  

This is where my hobby comes into play. I love tailoring the truth about The Teacher to their needs. Some of these girls have only heard the name Jesus used as a swear word. Others have picked up the culture’s negative attitude toward Christians. But they are growing to love The Teacher. Each week we tell them “clues” about who The Teacher is, and they get to add them to their list of clues. Some have figured out the name, but their understanding of the real Jesus is badly distorted. 

In our small groups after the story, we leaders have a chance to pour into the hearts of the girls. We hear the challenges of their young hearts: everything from sick pets to broken homes and imprisoned parents. We have a chance to give them a glimpse of hope. 

There is nothing as satisfying as helping someone fall in love with Jesus. It is especially satisfying with these girls whose hearts are still tender enough to respond. So for me, my hobby, my break in my busy week, is SMM (Sisters Mentoring with a Mission). I give myself the luxury of watching God work in their hearts. 

Laugh at my hobby if you wish. But I hope you find one for yourself that’s this rewarding! 

~ Written by Viki Rife

Let’s be honest. We just can’t reach our full potential alone. Strength comes when we partner with others.

That is a foundational belief of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches. We rejoice in the number of brothers and sisters whom God has brought into our circle throughout the world, and realize that we must learn to partner together. Cultural differences must not stand in the way of the mission God has given us. We need to work together to determine how our beliefs can strengthen us to reach out to a world in need.

That’s why you should feel a vested interest in what will happen in Bangkok, Thailand, next week. As delegates representing at least 19 countries meet together, their decisions will help set the stage for greater impact as we collaborate globally to make disciples for Christ.  
For some of the delegates, just getting to the meeting is a major challenge. Some of them come from war-torn countries; some are at risk of persecution. They need our prayers. It’s the best contribution we can make to bless these representatives and to help our Fellowship become effective around the world.

Please commit to spend least fifteen minutes in prayer at some point next week for the future of the international Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches. Help the delegates know who “has their backs” by signing up in the prayer chain. Details can be found at http://charisalliance.org/english/prayer-chain.html.   

Thank you for your valuable contribution. 

Who’s There?

~ Written by Cassie Harris

It makes for comical, sometimes awkward moments. People come and stand near me. I ignore them.  

It’s not intentional. I’ve been partially blind in my right eye for several years and have limited feeling on my right side due to Cerebral Palsy. It’s a challenge to help people understand; when they’re on my right side, to me they don’t exist.  

There’s one exception. I know when a family member is near. There’s something about their bodies and the way they breathe. I just know when they’re standing next to me. What most onlookers see as a normal acknowledgment of another person’s presence is always an act of faith for me. Sometimes, I turn to say hi wondering if I’m “feeling them” when I’m really not.  

Funny enough, I’ve never been wrong. 

It’s like our relationship with Christ. When we know our Savior, we don’t need to see Him to know He’s there. It’s in the way He moves mountains and breathes peace. Sure, sometimes we wonder if we’re putting stock in a Higher Power that isn’t actually there. But hallelujah, we’re never left hanging on to a nonexistent God. 

Our problem is, we expect an intimate knowledge of our God without investing in creating intimacy with Him. Though I’m partially blind, I know the presence of my family because I’ve spent my entire life learning about them and being with them.  

What makes me think my relationship with my Creator would require less? 

~ Written by Cassie Harris 

​I noticed something this weekend about womankind’s need to gossip. We gossip most when we’re extremely hurt and we feel emotionally violated. 

We need to tell someone how wretched “so-n-so” is. But, we know gossip is wrong. So instead, we approach it from the perspective of “needing prayer.” But we gently use phrases like, “I’m not sure, but I think they… (insert opinions here.)”

​Before we know it, what we are confiding to a friend as a “prayer request” becomes a chance to recount every bitter corner of our wounded pride. By the time we’re done telling our story, we’re too bitter to pray. We’re too bitter to hear truth.

​Because of that bitterness, our prayers for the people who have offended us become prayers about them, not for them. Prayers like Change them, God, they’re not who I once knew become thrown at the Heavens with bitter authoritative pride. The reality is, there is more power praying God, they need you. What can I do to overcome evil with good?

​As a kid, I was always taught not to gossip because it made people “feel bad.” May I take it a step further and suggest that gossiping disables us in the Throne Room by clothing us with a prideful arrogance over the people in our lives who are hard to love?

​We’re women, made in the image of God. Our words are powerful. Let’s use them wisely.



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