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~ Written by Viki Rife

As I opened my car door, I heard an ear-piercing scream. Looking up, I saw a mother coming toward me pushing a grocery cart loaded with bags with one hand while trying to carry a struggling, screeching child. As the mom passed, she looked at me apologetically and said, “I won’t give her any more candy.” The child screeched, “She’s mean!”

As mothers, we know what that’s like. Some of us have spent nights awake with a sick child who had found a stash of sweets and pigged out. We know things about the human body that our child cannot comprehend. There are times we choose to say “no” to our child.

Why do moms put themselves through the battle? It would be so much easier to let a child have whatever would keep her from making a fuss. It almost seems counterintuitive these days that the moms who love their children say “no,” but the ones who don’t care say “yes.”

“Is God good?” is a question people have to resolve in order to trust Him. In His wisdom and love, he sometimes has to deny us what we want most. He does it because he is good enough to care about us even when we kick and scream against him. His goodness is evidenced through his “no” as well as his “yes.”

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~ Written by Erin Shuler

I wonder if God wishes we would all stay babies.

While preparing for my return to Uganda, I’ve been thinking a lot about how ready I am to be there and to love on the children (especially the babies!). I can’t wait to sit and hold them in my arms (Baby Fever, ha-ha).

I told my mom the other day, “I would be happy for the rest of my life if all I did was sit and hold babies!” For me, there is nothing like the feel of a baby in my arms. They have complete trust and faith in the one holding them. I don’t mind the dirty diapers, the messes, or the crying (which drives some people crazy). It is all far outweighed by the feeling of love that I get as they sleep in my arms, smile up at me, cuddle with me, and just be. I feel at peace with them resting in my arms.

I often have a hard time wrapping my mind around how God sees and loves me. Today the thought hit me, “Wow, I wonder if God thinks the same way about his children as I do about holding babies. Maybe God longs to hold us in his arms the same way I long to hold a baby in mine. Maybe he doesn’t mind all the chaos, the messes, the crying that we go through, if we are going through it with him. His love goes beyond our dirt. He wants us to rest in his capable hands and rely on him.”

I’m sure God doesn’t actually wish that we would stay babies, but I wonder if he doesn’t often miss some of the qualities that we have lost over time. How often do we place our lives in his hands? How often do we just lie in his arms and be?  

~ Written by Cassie Rayl

I can’t imagine what was going through Aaron and Hur’s minds. They were charged with the task of holding up Moses’ arms to help Israel win the war. The significance always strikes me as odd, but I can’t imagine what was going through Aaron and Hur’s minds.

Their countrymen and fellow desert sojourners were at the bottom of the hill fighting with all their might. But there Aaron and Hur are, holding their aging leader’s arms up. If either of those godly men were even a fraction like me, I’m sure there was a time or two during the battle where their hearts groaned, “Seriously? Why can’t I be down there fighting? It’s my fight, too, ya know!”

But their seemingly small task held astronomical importance to their nation’s survival. If Moses’ arms fell, Israelites were slaughtered right before their eyes. If Moses’ arms stayed lifted, victory was in the hands of the Israelites and God received the glory.

It’s easy to compare our tasks with those of others. For the stay-at-home mom, it might be difficult to see her task as being equally as important as that of the single woman serving in Uganda. But we have no idea what impact our tasks – whether publicized or not – have on the eternal story our God is weaving.

There are days where God asks us to hold up arms rather than carry swords. Even when we can’t see the importance, our obedience impacts eternity.  

~ Written by Viki Rife

I couldn’t believe they weren’t twins. I had seen them many times playing together when I drove by. Then they showed up at our after-school SMM. They had lived next door to each other and had played together their whole lives. Now in first grade, they were inseparable.

Then one day one of them told me sorrowfully, “I can’t play with Mary* any more.” She went on to explain that they’d had a fight and her mom told her, “Just stay away from her if that’s how she’s going to be.”

As leaders, we tried to help the girls work things out. But they were too afraid of their mothers’ wrath if they spoke to each other. I hoped it would blow over, but it never did. They wouldn’t interact in SMM, although sometimes I saw wistfulness as one looked furtively at the other. Eventually one of them stopped coming.

That was over 20 years ago. I remember thinking at the time, “I hope the rest of their generation isn’t being raised with that philosophy.”

Sadly, I think they have. All it takes is one non-PC statement and people are writing each other off. It seems like the cultural norm has become, “If your opinion is different from mine, you must be a bad person.” In our society, I am the only one who has a right to free speech. And you will be condemned if you don’t agree.

As God’s people, we are called to be ministers of reconciliation. Our world desperately needs examples of gracious people who know how to bring warring factors together in the presence of our Lord. If there’s one way we can demonstrate Jesus, it’s by knowing how to be agents of change through reconciliation.

*Name changed  

~ Written by Viki Rife

I really hated to do it, but I had no choice. I picked up the scissors. I could hardly bring myself to start cutting.

This was my favorite plant, the one I hang outside my window every summer to enjoy while I’m having my devotions each morning. Whenever I look up from my reading and writing, there it is, swinging gently in the wind, with the willow tree in the background and hummingbirds stopping by to visit. It’s my little piece of heaven.

We’d had a hailstorm, and ever since then it had looked more and more pathetic. I had tried to nurse it along, but it was obvious that drastic measures were needed. I had one more thing to try before throwing it in the trash heap.

I started cutting back the long, hanging stems. With them came the few blossoms that were left. It no longer hung over the edges of the planter. The short, stubby growth that was left was a pathetic shadow of what had once brought me so much enjoyment.

Fast forward a month, however, and the plant once again showed energetic growth. It was fuller than it had been before, and covered with flowers and new buds. Something about cutting it back had brought new life.

Sometimes it’s hard to understand why God prunes us. Why would He make us give up a ministry that is blossoming? Why would He allow us to lose someone who is precious to us? Why would He leave us feeling as if we had been cut down on all sides?

If only we can remember He only does it for our good! He wants to give us a fullness that is greater than anything we have experienced. And the way He does it is by removing the dead growth. I wonder if He feels sadness in making us suffer, but forges ahead because He knows it’s the only way to save us from ourselves.

I’m so glad He doesn’t give up. 

~ Written by Viki Rife

How are we to respond to the situation last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia? A look at our history can give us some important clues.

When the Civil War started, the Brethren, who were pacifists, remained committed to their refusal to wound another human. They did not enlist. This brought them under suspicion from both sides.

However, they also had strong abolitionist beliefs. Many were already involved in the Underground Railroad and in purchasing slaves in order to set them free. When the war started, they ramped up their efforts within the guidelines of their conscience.

Their part in the Battle of Antietam is an example of the spirit of followers of Christ. Soldiers from both sides were wreaking havoc on the farms and burning the homes of these peaceful people. Remember, they hadn’t taken sides, so neither side protected them as “theirs.”

However, these brave souls went out into the fields and even Antietam Creek. They rescued as many wounded Union and Confederate soldiers as they could, taking them into their homes.

When they ran out of room there, they took them to their church, turning it into a hospital where enemies were placed side by side for treatment. When you visit the Antietam Battlefield Memorial, you can see the church and hear the story.

These people lived within the boundaries they believed God called them to. However, that did not keep them from being ministers of reconciliation in the world. They went out of their way to care for the very people who were destroying their property. They showed grace to everyone, even though they stood against what the Confederates were fighting for.

The early Brethren were very aware that their citizenship belonged first to the kingdom of heaven. They put into practice the instructions of Jesus through the Apostle Paul, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).

(To find out more about beliefs of the early Brethren on racism, read “The Better View” in the current issue of Women’s Spectrum magazine. Find out more here.

~ Written by Viki Rife

The summer I was 15, a friend we were visiting took my family to the top of the incline overlooking Johnstown, Pennsylvania. As he was describing the disastrous flood that had once hit the city, I stood looking down at the homes below. “How many people in this town know Jesus?” I asked myself. “What would happen to them if another flood came?”

My mind immediately went into problem-solving mode. “I could come back with a bunch of friends, and we could knock on every door in the city and ask whether anyone knows Jesus in that home. If no one does, we could offer to tell them.” I even picked out a big white house with a round porch that would serve as a starting point.

My brain continued by trying to calculate how many friends it would take and how long we would need to stay. I ended up concluding that it would take ten of us all summer to get to every door. Then I remembered that back home in California I didn’t even have three friends who cared enough about the lost to dedicate their whole summer to such an endeavor.

Something in me at that moment pleaded, “Lord, could you somehow make it happen anyway?”

The whole thing might have been dismissed as childish dreaming. That’s what I thought as I grew older, feeling a bit embarrassed for such foolish thoughts. But almost 30 years later I found myself standing in front of the big white house, talking to a man recovering from drug addiction. I had been recruited to help as a leader with The Blitz, an outreach day during Brethren National Youth Conference (now Momentum).

Almost 2,000 people were participating that day. Our goal? To knock on every door in Johnstown and offer to share the gospel. There were 200 times as many people as I had asked for, and it took one day instead of a whole summer. What a great reminder that to God, our prayers are never embarrassing!

If you see prayer as an important part of walking with God, please consider joining us at the Soul Cry retreat at Camp Conquest in Pennsylvania in September. Click here for more details. 

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