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Archive for November, 2017

~ Written by Viki Rife

It sounded like a really good idea. My husband was working late in Valparaiso, an hour and a half west of us. Knowing he would get home late and be too tired to remember, he decided to set his phone alarm for the next morning before he left the office.

Guess what? The alarm did not go off at the time he needed it to. Even though the alarm was clearly set for 7 a.m., it went off at 8 a.m. our time, which was 7 in Valparaiso.

It made me wonder how many of God’s wake-up calls I miss because I set my goals in “earth time” instead of my home time, heaven. Do I really live in God’s zone, or in this world’s? I have to remember constantly which zone I belong in.

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Felt-Board Jesus

~ Written by Maria Houston

I serve a different Jesus now than the one I knew before. Gone is the fabric character I placed on a felt background as a child. I imagined him gently speaking to the children gathered around his feet. He was safe and undemanding, without any risk involved.

That Jesus did not ask much of me, but I expected much of him. He was to ensure the job I wanted, the husband I dreamed of, the family I desired, and the life I deserved. I knew he would fulfill all my requests, because he loved me.

But as my faith adventure went on, the road became difficult. I encountered mountains that were hard to climb and valleys that were impossible to navigate. I clung to my felt-board Jesus, but he was of no help. He was not answering my prayers. He was silent. The mountain was not removed; I was struggling to climb it. As with a gust of wind, my felt-board Jesus was ripped from my hands. I watched him go up into the air. I stood there motionless. My Jesus was gone. The stories I heard as a child must be untrue. I was all alone.

Instead a new Jesus appeared. I could not hold Him, see Him, or touch Him, but I could feel Him standing there. I asked Him to explain why He allowed this mountain to remain. Couldn’t He just make it go away? If He would just listen to me! I had a better idea. He could make an easy path—one that was straight and flat without any hardship. I sensed Him motioning me to follow Him.

As we climbed the mountain together I realized He was in charge. He had places He wanted to show me, places that might involve pain, but also bring about more joy than I knew before. The more time we spent together the more I started to think like Him. I even started praying for things we needed for our adventure together.

It has taken time to get used to this new Jesus. But as I look at scripture I see that this Jesus is not actually new, but was the one who always existed. This is the Jesus who has changed lives for centuries. My felt-board Jesus could never have done that.

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Kiss the Knees

~ Written by Viki Rife

She sat on the floor with her dollies. Carefully she picked up each one and lovingly gave it a bottle. Then she methodically lined them up and began changing diapers, carefully wiping each baby with tissues she had stuffed into an empty box of baby wipes.

After three days I had stopped trying to coax her to sit on my lap. It isn’t easy for a timid two-year-old to get to know a grandma she only sees once a year. I contented myself with sitting nearby and working on a crochet project. Of course, she had no idea that the yarn was turning into a gift for her.

Suddenly, she jumped up, ran over, and kissed my knee, which was the only part of me low enough for her to reach. Before I could respond, she had scampered back to her dolls.

She was showing love for me in the only ways her shy heart could handle. The impromptu demonstration of affection touched me deeply. I still longed to hold her in my arms, but realized this was all she could handle at the moment. And it was enough.

I often picture myself approaching God as a child. All I can handle is kissing His knee. Thankfully, He’s a good Father who delights in my attempts to demonstrate my affection. I sometimes picture Him smiling to Himself as he works to weave the thread of my life into something that will delight me.

Because He understands me, He accepts my feeble love as enough.

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Who Do Your Friends Love?

~ Written by Viki Rife

A friend and I were having a heart-to-heart in the lobby at church when all of a sudden her eyes widened in panic. She made a beeline for the bathroom. Concerned, I followed to make sure she was okay. I found her in front of the mirror, frantically rearranging her hair. “Why didn’t you tell me I had a spike sticking up?” she exclaimed when she saw me walk in. Apparently a glimpse of herself in the lobby mirror had triggering her actions.

I wasn’t sure how to apologize. Honestly, I hadn’t noticed. It really wasn’t that obvious. But she had an idea of how she should look, and was embarrassed to be seen any other way.

It made me think of how many expectations I put on myself that no one else has. For example, we are mortified if anyone sees us without makeup, or in any way that doesn’t meet what we think people expect. We even have unrealistic expectations with our homes, and are embarrassed to let anyone see anything less than a magazine-worthy showpiece.

It makes me wonder what it will take for us to be real, to be comfortable with who we are. I remember when a friend died, several people reminisced that she was comfortable in her own skin. That’s how I want to live. The problem with wearing a mask is that it’s the mask that gets love, and we are left feeling unloved.

What if we let go of the mask and let people love us for who we really are? How would that change our satisfaction with our friendships? Let people love the real you.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“Freedom!” His unnaturally high-pitched voice echoed throughout the jail’s cold, cinderblock chapel after the chaplain had asked his audience, “What does every man want the most?” When my client’s announcement was met with shocked silence, he turned to me and signed angrily, “Tell him what I mean!”

With my hands corresponding with my voice, I explained to the audience that my client — we’ll call him Caleb — believed no man could know what he wanted if the person was not free. Mentally, I reminded myself he meant free from the jail cell he was confined in. He wanted freedom; he didn’t seem to know how to want God.

After my explanation, Caleb patted me on the back in affirmation that I had interpreted his anger efficiently. He seemed proud of himself for speaking up. He no longer wanted me to interpret the service and sat there annoyed and impatient, waiting for the guard to come and return the inmates to their cells.

My heart ached when I left work that day. Caleb may have had deaf ears, but he had a jaded and uninformed mind when it came to things about God, love, and true freedom. The week prior, I had asked him to define words like “salvation,” “grace,” “love,” and “sin.” None of his definitions made sense. None of his explanations came with conviction. He’d told me rather nonchalantly, “I don’t really know what these things mean, I just know you want to hear me say them. You are a Christian after all.”

I was reminded during my time with Caleb that often times people who need truth the most long for freedom, but don’t know how to ask for it. Such a reality means we as Christians — freedom and truth holders — must be watching for them and be willing to pour into them.

They may think they’re free, but are they?

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