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Which Life?

~Written by Erin Shuler

There it was—the full blow! It was time to make a choice. Was I in or was I out?

For a long time I have had an idea of where God was calling me. I was so excited to follow it and see what would come of it! God placed a desire on my heart to leave the comforts of home as I know them and pursue Him through caring for and loving on orphans in Africa. After visiting Africa for the first time, I came home ready to leave everything behind and dive right into the life I felt I had been called to live. But time passed, and even though I knew my calling hadn’t changed, I felt myself wishing it would.

Driving down the road one day, I realized for the first time how alluring the idea of the American dream was to me. I didn’t realize how hard a fight it was going to be to walk away from ideas that had been engraved in me since birth. I finally realized the impact of what a decision to move across the world was going to mean. It was no longer just giving up a career I didn’t want anyway or money I could have made. I was missing out on all the big and small things that would happen in the States while I was absent. It meant possibly missing my siblings’ weddings. It meant missing the birth of future nephews and nieces. It meant losing the chance to be a part of the lives of people I suddenly realized I wanted desperately to be a part of. It meant risking relationships I already have and can’t imagine not having. It meant no house with a white picket fence, no being one of those soccer moms, no elaborate thousand-dollar weddings or expensive car. 

I realized for the first time that day I had spent my entire life filling my head with ideas that matched the American dream. When I pictured my future, I never saw myself in Africa. I saw myself in America with the “perfect home and family.” So could I still do it? Was I willing to give up what was asked of me?

The truth is the life I have is not mine. It was given to me with the intention that I use it to bring God glory. My purpose is not to live the life I dream but rather the life I have graciously been given to further the kingdom of Christ. Christ has loved me and I in return will love. I will fall in love a hundred times over with every smiling face and every child I hold and touch.

I will love well because Christ has perfectly loved me.

Stranded! 

~ Written by Viki Rife 

Riding the subway can be nerve racking for someone as claustrophobic as I am. I really don’t like being underground. One hot summer day, my worst nightmare came true. The subway, crammed full of weary, sweaty people heading home from work, stopped with a tremendous jolt. Those of us who were standing fell like dominoes. I glanced out the window at the tunnel walls, so close I could touch them.  

That familiar feeling of panic began to clutch at my throat. A voice came over the intercom, explaining that a train ahead of us had broken down, and we needed to wait until the tracks were cleared.  

A woman near me began to cry. “We’ll be stranded here for hours,” she said. “We’ll probably have to try to walk out between the train and the tunnel wall.” A cold, clammy sweat crept over me. I was pretty sure I was going to pass out.  
A man near her spoke up, “Oh, they have contingency plans for such things. It shouldn’t be too long.”

At that moment I had a choice. Who would I believe? Who was right? I chose to hang on to the hope the man had expressed. As long as I thought that way, I was fine. But whenever my mind started to go toward what the woman had said, the claustrophobia would kick in and I felt myself panicking.  

Hope is a powerful concept. Jesus calls us to listen to His hope when the world around us is threatening to throw us into a panic. Hope is what gets us through our worst nightmares. 

Hope is what Jesus came to give us. 

Whose Job Is it? 

~ Written by Viki Rife

For those who are struggling to be thankful this year because of the election results, I just want to share a thought. I understand the concerns of those who feel certain groups who tend to be marginalized will be neglected even more. However, for those of us who belong to the Kingdom of Heaven and are just passing through on this earth, I have a question. Where does the Bible say that it is the responsibility of  the government to care for the poor, the needy, the marginalized? According to my Bible, that is our  calling as followers of God. We are responsible to care for the “least of these.”

So it really shouldn’t matter what the government does. The question is, “Are we doing our job? Or have we abdicated our calling for the government to take over?” What concerns me most is that while the government may care for people’s physical well-being to some extent, it can never offer their souls what they really need. We are the ones who can help both their bodies and their souls. And I wonder if it’s more likely that the ones who help with their spiritual needs are the ones to whom they will entrust their souls. Do we really want to leave that to any president?  

Let’s give thanks for a political situation that may force those who believe there is an eternity that matters to rise up and invest in serving others that makes them desire the kingdom of God. And pray that we all will seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit and step up to the plate. 

The world will know we are Christians by our love. 

~ Written by Viki Rife 

I confess, I’m baffled. A few weeks ago, on election night, several of my Christian friends posted on social media that they were only making it through thanks to a bottle of alcohol. After the results were official, I saw a number of posts from Christian friends expressing how much they were grieving, and casting blame on white evangelicals, shaming them that this “miscarriage of justice” was their fault.

I admit, I’m not satisfied with the results. Nor would I have been satisfied if Hilary had won. In my mind, this whole election season has been an example of everyone doing what is right in their own eyes. So I am not pointing fingers at one side or the other.

My personal grief has nothing to do with who won or lost. My grief is that many of my Christian friends had an opportunity to tangibly demonstrate their faith but chose to do the opposite. Does it really take whiskey rather than faith and prayer to get a Christian through election night? Has God abdicated His authority over heaven and earth to white supremacy? What are we teaching our children through these posts?

I grieve over my fellow Christians who are being divisive instead of seeking to be ministers of reconciliation. I grieve over arrogance and entitlement on both sides. Most of all, I grieve that we have publicly announced our loss of faith in the sovereignty of God.

~ Written by Viki Rife

Nothing makes me more angry than injustice. I cry with the psalmist, “Why do the wicked prosper?” Recently, a situation that seemed completely unfair really got to me. Frustrated, I kept asking, “God, you could deal with this person and stop their cruelty to others. Why don’t you?”

Then I read Jesus’ parable in Matthew 13:24-30. A farmer has planted his field, but weeds start to grow. When his servants give him the news, the insightful farmer tells his servants, “An enemy has done this!” When the servants offer to pull them up, the farmer tells them to leave them until harvest. Then the weeds would be pulled first and tied in bundles to be burned.

When we see injustice, we cannot blame God. Cruelty, murder, cheating, bullying, even sickness, are the work of the enemy. All those things we know should not be in our “field” have been planted by him. But our Lord knows what He’s doing. A time will come when He makes all things well, and will harvest us into His Kingdom. Meanwhile, our anger should be directed toward the enemy, and we should seek to thwart him by drawing closer to our Lord.

~ Written by Viki Rife

I couldn’t believe it! I was waiting at a restaurant for a friend when a group of about seven ladies came in and sat at a nearby table. Before I knew what was happening, they started spreading out their dirty laundry all over the table.

Well, at least that’s what it felt like. Along with the other diners in the vicinity, I was subjected to an airing of most, if not all, the dirty laundry of their church. So-and-so really shouldn’t be an elder (at this several women explained in detail all they had done to keep him from being an elder). Someone else pulled out of her hamper an offense against her by another woman, and they discussed that she didn’t deserve to be in their church. Water was pooling on the church parking lot, and they knew exactly whose fault it was and how many other things that person had done wrong. Each woman took her turn assuring the others that she had vigorously addressed situations by pointing out such and such a person’s failures to leaders in the church.

By the time my friend arrived to rescue me, I was seriously grossed out. I would have preferred to put up with physical dirty laundry than the ugly attitudes I was hearing. I did not know any of these women, nor did they know me. However, I found myself wanting to find out what church they went to so I could make sure never to enter their church doors. I can’t begin to imagine what vows the non-believers around us might have been making.

It was especially sobering to realize that I may have done the same thing at some point. Let’s keep our dirty laundry where it belongs! The world will not be won to Christ by it.

~ Written by Viki Rife

“I was up most of the night praying for a home,” my eighty-five-year-old father told me. My heart broke. It wasn’t because his situation was dire. It was because it wasn’t dire, but he didn’t know it. Dementia makes it impossible for him to recognize his room. He will often ask me, “Where will I sleep tonight?” When I point to the bed right beside him, he gives me a relieved smile.

When he needs medical care, he always asks hesitantly, “But can we afford it?” I work to reassure him that he has good coverage. He can only remember it for a few minutes before asking me the same worried question again.  

I wish so much that he could understand and appreciate how good he has it. He admires the décor and courtyards of the health care facility that has been his home for several years, but usually as if he were visiting the home of a stranger. He does not need to worry about where he will sleep or whether he can afford health care. It’s all taken care of.  

It makes me wonder how God feels about my spiritual dementia. I worry and stress, no matter how many times He reassures me and demonstrates that He is taking care of me. I fail to recognize that He has provided me with a place to rest —I don’t have to figure it out. 

If I had His insight on my situation, I would live with so much joy and peace! Please, Lord, heal my spiritual dementia. 

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