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Archive for the ‘Advice’ Category

~ Written by Samantha Freds

Earlier this summer, the hydrangea plant in the landscaping around my house started sprouting an odd-looking stem. When I first saw it I thought, “That’s a weed, I should pull it up.” But then I started to look closer and suddenly wasn’t sure exactly what it was. The leaves, though a darker color, looked like the rest of the plant. They all had jagged edges. I lifted the leaves to trace the stems to the roots and I could not separate the stems of this thing from the flower. I thought, “Let’s just see what happens. I don’t remember what it looked like last year.” So I left it.

Before long, the weed completely took over! You could hardly see the hydrangea under the looming weed. And it took everything my husband had to wrestle it out of there. We attacked the root with a shovel and took turns twisting and pulling until finally he was able to yank it out.  When he did, we realized that the root of the weed had grown about a foot directly into the roots—the foundation—of the flower.

That is exactly what happens in our thought life when we do not take captive the thoughts that threaten us, threaten our identity, security and freedom in Christ, the reality of who we are because of Him. It’s what happens when we let thoughts run wild about other people. When we compare ourselves to them or make quick judgments about them.

It’s what happens when concerns and worries about our circumstances plant themselves so strongly in our minds they threaten to steal our joy. And it is certainly what happens when our thoughts tempt us toward all kinds of destructive habits and attitudes. Even while everything on the outside still seems to blend in, that pesky little thought is burrowing its way into our very core.

We don’t have to be held hostage by our thoughts. Instead, we can tell them the truth about who God says we are in Him!

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~ Written by Viki Rife

As I picked up my computer bag to pack up at the end of the week, the temptation to just not bother began to take over. The whole week seemed to have been spent on nothing but tiny details, troubleshooting, and unexpected setbacks. It felt like nothing at all had been accomplished.

I’m putting in so much effort and just spinning my wheels, I thought. Maybe I shouldn’t even waste my time trying. Nothing I do really has any significance in the long-term.

My computer cord caught a small clear-plastic ball and knocked it off my desk. As I picked it up, I realized I hadn’t really paid attention to it for a long time. It was something I had bought twenty years ago. It had inspired me then. The ball is full of sand, with two halves: One has a perforation that says, “Perseverance moves mountains….” “The other half has holes and reads:” …one grain of sand at a time.” It doesn’t take long to see the sand sift through and form mountains every time I turn it over.

It hit me that twenty years ago, when I bought the desk ornament, I had been feeling the same way. It felt like I was getting nowhere. But now I can look back and see what God has done in those twenty years. Impossible dreams have become reality. Many things that didn’t turn out my way actually turned out better.

All I have to do is give my little grains of sand to God. He’s the one who moves mountains, and each grain does matter.

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~ Written by Tabby McMonagle

I was up all night. I couldn’t sleep because I didn’t know how to process my feelings. This week a friend asked me to watch her kids. She was in a tough spot. I knew she was desperate, so I said yes. It was wonderful. The kids had a fun time. I did, too. I expected to sleep well. I didn’t.

Just one day with her kids had exhausted me. She must feel like that every day! She is a single mom going through a rough time. My heart was breaking for her. I wanted to take her pain away, but I couldn’t.  What does it look like to bear one another’s burdens in a healthy way?

I called a friend to help me put it into perspective. She said, “What you did yesterday, watching her kids, making her dinner, was bearing her burden with her. Today you are trying to carry something that is not yours to bear. You have to give your broken heart to the Lord in prayer. You can always think of other ways to help her, but you have to leave the rest in God’s hands.”

Her words reminded me of a story Hannah Whitall Smith told in one of her books:

A friend found a butterfly cocoon and kept it to watch it open. When it began opening, she found it struggling to break free. After a while she couldn’t bear to watch it any longer.  She used her sewing scissors to delicately help the butterfly break free. Soon afterwards she noticed something was wrong. The butterfly’s wings were limp and just dragged behind it. It later died with lifeless wings.

Later she met a specialist and asked him what happened. He explained the struggle of a butterfly to leave its cocoon is what brings blood and life into its wings. Without the struggle, the blood cannot pump into the wings, making the them lifeless and useless.

My heart is heavy for my friend right now. I can pray and help when she needs me. The rest is up to her.

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~ Written by Samantha Freds

There is an odd tendency in golf when two people (who aren’t exactly professionals) ride in the same cart. Both players start hitting the ball in the same direction. The first golfer hits to the right and sure enough, the second one hits in that direction, too. One player ends up in the sand trap and the other golfer follows close behind. Now, there are always a few unique shots, but the pattern seems to emerge nonetheless.

I’ve heard it called, “Ride together, golf together.”

The same thing happens in life. It’s unintentional and not all at once. Slowly but surely, though, we start becoming like the people we ride with. We begin to think, talk, act and even look like the people we encounter most frequently.

Ride together, golf together.

The tendency isn’t good or bad on its own, though. It depends on whose shot we are following out on the course and in life.

While we are familiar with this concept when it comes to choosing friends and other influences, we often forget its importance when in regards to prioritizing our time. Spending quality time with Jesus is not about accumulating knowledge or checking off a list. It’s about letting His life mold ours.

When we spend time in the Word, in prayer and in worship we inevitably begin to look more like Jesus!

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~ Written by Samantha Freds

You know what it’s like to face a giant. The broken relationship you can’t mend; the bill you can’t pay, the habit you can’t quit. Some opponents just seem too strong, some obstacles too monstrous, some problems too complex, and some situations too painful for hope of victory.

The young shepherd boy, David, once stood in the shadow of a literal giant—the champion of the Philistine army. Goliath was over nine feet tall. His coat of armor weighed almost as much as I do! The fact that he stood arrogantly on the battlefield that day was proof that he’d never lost. No one had ever faced Goliath and lived to tell about it.

Cue David. David was confident he would defeat the giant, even without the armor of a soldier. If we pause and read the story of David and Goliath with fresh ears, David’s confidence is crazy! He is only a young shepherd. While David spent years walking the hills with his sheep, Goliath was training for battle. Then we read why David was so confident:

The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!” David had seen God’s hand of protection and provision before. Goliath was not the first giant David had faced. He wouldn’t be the last. When David stood in the Goliath’s shadow, he remembered the giants God had already given him victory over.

God is bigger than any giant His people face.

God reminded the Israelites over and over, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, who rescued you from the bondage of slavery.” God wants us to remember who He is and what He has done.

By remembering that, we can be confident in Him when we face our own spiritual giants.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

My friend planted 100 tulip bulbs in her yard last fall. She couldn’t even remember where they were all planted! They lay under snow all winter, then under the mud, until they came up and started to bloom. The entire area was awash with color! A blessed view for anyone staying home all day in quarantine.

As she described her investment, I was struck by the similarities to what I’m observing and experiencing during this pandemic. Those who have invested in spending time with God seem to be more resilient. Each truth about God that was lying under the surface has started to spring up to bring comfort and blessing. The more they planted, the more they’re reaping.

As the Charis Fellowship discusses our handling of the pandemic, we’ve talked about three stages. The first is the blizzard that causes us all to hunker down. The blizzard will be followed by winter, a time of venturing out occasionally. But then will come a new spring of opportunities. The more we invest now in our relationship with God, the stronger we will be and the more ready to bless others with truth.

Keep planting, dear friends! We never know how God will use it.

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~ Written by Samantha Freds

Disrupted plans and uncertain futures, broken routines and unwelcome interruptions, hourly updates with no end in sight… these are a few of my not so favorite things!

It’s a cute scene. The one where Julie Andrew’s character comforts the children with a song about her favorite things. All of a sudden the storm raging outside doesn’t seem so scary.

But we have something far better to cling to in times of uncertainty and fear.

The Bible tells us that God is our ever-present help in trouble. He is greater than the one reeking havoc in the world and He will never leave us!

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” Jeremiah 17:7-8.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” Lamentations 3:22-23.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life” Psalm 138:7.

God’s Word is full of truth we can cling to, and He desires to fill us with peace beyond our understanding. Maybe this is just the interruption we need to pause the hustle and rest in Him.
May we be women of peace and quiet confidence in the One who is always in control.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

We had no clue when we set out for the forest preserve that we would get to see bald eagles—three at the same time, to be exact. They were perched in a tree close to where we stood, easily visible. The preserve was trying to reintroduce them, and for several years we had thought from time to time we saw one fly over, but never were close enough to be sure. Now there they were, watching us with their sharp eyes.

Of course, the first thing my husband did was grab his camera and start shooting. We were thrilled at the amazing opportunity that had opened up for us. When we finally left, I was eager to view what must be sensational photos. When I pressed the button to review them, however, a square with a menu showed up over the photo, blocking everything but the edges.

“How do I get that out of here?” I asked my husband. He shrugged. “It’s been doing that for a long time. I can’t figure out what to do about it.”

It was frustrating to wait until we finished several errands and got home so we could download and get a glimpse of the photos. It gave me a resolve to get the camera situation fixed. Nothing I tried worked.

Finally, as a last resort, I sat down and read the manual. Guess what? There was an easy solution for the problem! Why didn’t I do that to begin with? My only answer is that sometimes I’m a lot like a two-year-old who insists, “Me do it!”

I’m afraid the same attitude is at work when I go through times when I can’t see God. I often try everything before I give up and pour over the Manual, His Word. But I find it’s the only way to eliminate what’s blocking His precious image. Only there will I find the answers my soul craves.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

I think it was the biscuits that were the final straw. I had been rushing around trying to get dinner ready so we could head off in our different directions for evening meetings. I was running late, and I knew the young woman I was mentoring had only a short time to spend with me. It had been hard enough to find one hour to meet.

It had been a hard day, and I was working myself up to a stroke. Then I smelled the biscuits burning. At that moment a verse I had read earlier in my devotions came to me in my Father’s gentle voice: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

I need to ask myself throughout the day: “Can I cook this meal for His glory?” “Can I drive to my appointment sensibly for His glory?” “Can I be patient with my neighbor for His glory?” “Can I get up for His glory and go to bed for His glory?”

Of course, the context of this verse is talking about idolatry and abuses of communion. But at that moment, I realized that my efforts, frustrating as they seemed to me, were something that needed to be done, and I could fall apart, or I could do it joyfully for God’s glory.

How I handle the most frustrating times in my life are my greatest opportunity to demonstrate the glory of my Lord. It’s how I handle things like burnt biscuits that shows me whether I truly care about honoring Him.

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~ Written By Viki Rife

My friend called me in a panic. “Are you okay?” she blurted as soon as I answered. “Why didn’t you answer my text? We have to take care of this now.”

I scrolled through my texts. Sure enough, there was the message, and it really was important. But my phone had been going off all day, people had stopped in with questions, and somehow the message got lost in everything else I was hearing.

All too often, I fear, the same thing happens in my relationship with God. I can get so busy serving Him, listening to all the voices clamoring, that I can’t really hear Him.

That’s why contemplative prayer has been so important in my life. Contemplative prayer for us as Christians is not like eastern religions or New Age, requiring us to empty our minds. Instead, it involves filling our minds with God, and only with Him. It’s meditating on Him and His Word in ways that can provide a conduit for us to think in tune with His thoughts.

Scientists say that the more we think about something, the deeper certain grooves become in our brain. This then causes our thoughts to quickly follow the “rut” that developed those grooves. Negative thoughts deepen negative grooves. Positive thoughts deepen (or develop) positive grooves. According to one author, just twelve minutes of contemplative prayer a day will produce, within eight weeks, groove changes that are visible in brain scans.

While human science is just now discovering these physical evidences, our Creator has known all along what is needed to transform our thinking. We are called to fix our eyes on Jesus. If that isn’t something you are currently doing, may I challenge you for the next two months to set an alarm for twelve minutes of thinking about God and who He is. This is not a time to ask, but to receive what He wants you to know. Start with key verses that help you focus on who He is.

At the end of the two months, assess the value of this practice. You never know how your mind will be renewed!

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