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~ Written by Viki Rife

The other day I had some extra time between appointments, so I stopped at an area park to enjoy the scenery and sunshine. An older couple pulled up in their boat to the pier. The man got out and backed a truck with a boat trailer up to the boat ramp. Then he got back in the boat and drove up the ramp. He fastened the boat to the trailer and drove the truck up a little ways. He then busied himself taking fishing poles out of the boat, etc. All the time the wife sat in the boat.

Finally, he took a small crane-like apparatus out of the back of the truck. He carefully spread out some strips of canvas and the women scooted onto them. He grabbed both ends, hooked them onto the crane, and with the push of a button was able to lift her off the boat and lower her into a waiting wheelchair.

He pushed the wheelchair around to the other side of the truck and helped her scoot herself onto something that looked like a stool. She pushed a button and it slowly lifted her level with the truck seat. Once she was safely in the truck, the man loaded the crane, stool and wheelchair into the truck. It had taken them 45 minutes to go through this process. I’m guessing they did the same thing in reverse when they started their fishing trip.

Their commitment to fishing blew me away. Why would anyone go to so much hassle? As I left for my next appointment, a tender voice probed, “Are you that committed to being a fisher of men?” I’ve been pondering it ever since. 

~ Written by Viki Rife

It was a stormy winter night on Lake Michigan in 1904. But Harriet Colfax didn’t hesitate to get into her rowboat. One of the few female lighthouse keepers of her era, her destination was the opposite shore of the harbor at Michigan City, Indiana. There were two lights to help ships find the entrance to the harbor. They needed to be lit by hand each evening.

Harriet lived alone. If anything happened to her, there was no one to know or come to her rescue. The most amazing part of her exploit is that Harriet was 80 years old. The courage of this woman makes her one of my heroes. Lake Michigan, with its unpredictable weather, presents a challenge even in the summer. Winter would make it even more brutal.

Having seen a map of shipwrecks on Lake Michigan has given me some insight into what drove this woman. She felt a deep sense of responsibility to save lives. She spent 43 years at her post, making sure the lights were lit faithfully every night.

This story is a beautiful challenge for those of us who believe God has given us a mission to spread His light to those who are in danger. May we never, never allow the storms of life to cause us to abandon our call.

~ Written by Cassie Harris

There were two men in my life. They both wanted to officiate my wedding. They both decided – separately – that if they never met the man I married, I wasn’t allowed to get married. Both Terry and Ray jokingly-but-not-so-jokingly fought each other as they planned for my future wedding together. Who would get most of the limelight as the officiator of my wedding? Who would get to kiss my cheek first? Who would get to harass my groom the best?

Usually, I just laughed instead of focusing on the confusion their bantering created. I was loved, that’s what I remembered. I was 16 and both these men had higher dreams for my future than I did. When I nearly ruined my life with childish decisions at 19 years old, they both spent hours almost daily on the phone talking me through my decisions and asking me hard questions no one else wanted to ask.

Both of these men passed away within a year of each other. It didn’t hit me until recently neither of these men get to see my wedding. Neither of these men get to ask me the hardest questions of all: “Can you support your husband when he seems unsupportable? Can you make him laugh when all you want to do is make him cry? Can you show him Christ when all you want to do is show him yourself?”

Even at 16, Ray and Terry warned me about those questions. They told me what they wanted the answers to be and what they would do if my answers didn’t represent Christ. They were futuristically minded when I couldn’t be. They cared more for my future than almost any other non-related acquaintance ever had.

They didn’t plan on not being around to help me grow up, but they prepared me for the future just in case they weren’t.

What if we discipled like that more often? What if we strove to be involved with our mentees but prepared them to be just as godly, wise and prepared without us as they are when they are with us? What if we didn’t shield them from hard things but rather taught them they can prepare for a storm before it comes?

What if we discipled in such a way that those we disciple don’t pine after us after we’re gone but rather strive to emulate the Christ-like characteristics we focused on the most?

(Adapted with permission from author’s blog Defining My Sanity.) 

~ Written by Cindy Shuler

“I can’t do this! I just want to quit!” This is what I told the Lord as I trudged along on the treadmill.

Early in January I had begun a journey toward better physical health. Now I had hit a wall. I hadn’t seen much progress in the past week or two. The treadmill at the hotel where we were staying was quirky and required frequent adjustments. As my frustration grew, I asked the Lord, “What’s the point?”

As if He owed me something, I reminded the Lord I was doing this for Him. He responded in His still, small voice, “You will reap a harvest if you don’t give up.”

Now, I know this is not the context in which the Apostle Paul penned these words in Galatians 6:9. But these words did lead me to reflect on the broader context of my life as I kept putting one foot in front of the other on that treadmill. The message of that passage is perseverance. It applies to all areas of life. In our instant, results-oriented society we often fail to embrace this truth.

I thought about the various things in which I was investing my time and energy. In several areas progress was slow and, at times, seemed to be moving backwards. Still, I felt this nudge to keep going—both on the treadmill and in other areas of ministry.

I finished my workout. I was tired, but grateful for the Spirit’s encouragement. And God, in His loving way, put a smile on my face when I returned home to find the barrier broken and several pounds gone.

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” 

~ Written by Viki Rife

I walked into the guest room and reached for the light switch. My finger encountered a thick powdery substance. I sighed. Here we go again!

In the past month, I have experienced the same thing over and over. I reach for a coffee cup and it feels gritty. I go to use an appliance and it’s gray instead of black.

When we started our remodeling project, I had no idea how very much drywall dust can find its way into every nook and cranny of a house. The sanding part of the project is over, but I keep finding places that need to be cleaned. How in the world did such thick dust get into rooms that were closed off?

I can’t help but compare it to how the Lord lives in us as He remodels us. Sometimes his work in us stirs up more dust, and we realize we need to go in and clean something we thought was safely closed off. It can’t be just a quick job—confess and walk away. It has to involve a thorough check of what we have been doing and how far the wrong motives have gotten. Every crevice needs to be carefully examined.

Slowly, I’m learning to appreciate the remodeling God is doing with my life. And, hopefully, I’m becoming more prepared to cooperate with Him in the job of removing the dust of sin from every corner of my life. 

Urgent Bells

~ Written by Viki Rife 

The kid down the street couldn’t resist ringing doorbells. He’d move along the row of houses, pushing buttons and hiding when someone opened a door. Ten times a day wasn’t too often for him to interrupt our lives.

Just ignore the doorbell, right? But my dad was the pastor, and because we didn’t have a phone in those days, the ringing of our doorbell could mean someone was in crisis. There was no way our conscience would allow us to ignore the doorbell when it rang. I felt tyrannized by that unpredictable bell.

Recently I realized that I’m caught in that tyranny again. This time, it’s my smartphone. It lets me know when I get a text, an e-mail, or certain Facebook posts or messages. It lets me know if there’s an Amber alert, or a Silver alert, or a weather alert. It reminds me that I have 17 tasks to do this day, or that I have an appointment, or that someone from a group text I was sent two days ago has finally gotten around to responding.

Because I am a conscientious person, I feel obligated to answer. Even if someone sends a mass Facebook message to all their friends that says, “Have a good day,” I feel I should at least acknowledge it with an emoji. I feel tyrannized by my phone. Because I travel a lot, people often don’t realize that I’m in a different time zone, so they send a text that awakens me at unearthly hours.

Yes, my phone has a button to turn it off. I have been turning off notifications on apps that intrude. But my parents are both in poor health, and I want to be available if needed. And I feel ambiguous because sometimes people are waiting on my answer to accomplish what they need to do, and are frustrated that it takes me so long to see their message and respond.

The way my brain feels right now, I understand what Jesus meant when He told His disciples to come aside and rest. The constant demands of everyone at any time was taking a toll on His relationship with His Father. I’m finally allowing myself to let go of the guilt for not being at everyone’s disposal constantly, and making conscious efforts to sit quietly, uninterrupted, at the feet of Jesus. Only He can teach me to live at peace in a frantic world. 

~ Written by Viki Rife 

I admit it was rather crazy. Trying to climb a mountain in the dark with only a flashlight can be unnerving. There’s no way to get the big picture of where you’re going. You take what looks like a way around a big boulder only to meet up with an enormous cactus. You have no choice but to turn around and try the other side, with no assurance that it will be any better. Sometimes you end up going sideways, for what seems like an eternity, hoping to eventually break through and get a little bit higher. The whole time you’re hoping your flashlight is enough to keep the mountain lions at bay.

The climb up the mountain from our camp was an annual tradition for our youth group. I remember the alarm going off at 3:30 and the temptation to wimp out and stay in a nice warm bed. I did not like the uncertainties of the climb. But each year I dragged myself out of bed and made the trek. Why? Because of the exhilaration of standing at the summit and watching as the first rays of the sun began to touch the mountains. Their beauty was breathtaking. We would stand until the sun touched the valley below. It truly felt like the top of the world.

My life often reminds me of that climb. I don’t have the big picture of how to get where I’m going. I encounter obstacles that seem insurmountable. Sometimes it feels like I’m not making any progress at all. And I live with the uneasy feeling that something is about to attack.

But someday I’ll reach the summit. When I see the Son, the hardship of the journey will seem insignificant. I’ll be so glad I chose to take this adventure toward knowing God! 

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