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Archive for the ‘Barriers’ Category

~ 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.  

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~ 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  

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~ 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.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

I got a glimpse of Heaven several years back. I sat in a room with friends who were German, Chinese, and Japanese. We each took turns reading portions of the Gospel story, simply taking time to revel in a God who doesn’t have a language barrier. I couldn’t understand my friends, and when I used Sign Language, they couldn’t understand me.

But we knew the same Jesus, and He was enough and would always be enough to bring us together.

Don’t you love the fact that we serve a God who doesn’t believe unity and uniformity are the same thing? We serve a God who made us differently for a purpose, and if we ignore that truth, we miss out on a level of Christ’s beauty that was never meant to be invisible. May we celebrate our diversity with our brothers and sisters no matter our differences. 

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl 

It was a heartbreaking and tumultuous time. I found comfort in a weekly walk to a babbling brook at the foot of a mountain. When it seemed as if everyone was against me, seeing God’s peaceful yet constant stream of water made me breathe more slowly, think more clearly, and let God speak words my heart couldn’t hear otherwise. Within those moments, I was reminded of God’s gentleness, peace, and quiet creativity.

Recently, almost a decade later, I stood before the majestic Niagara Falls in Canada and laughed joyously at the roaring water and the mist that hit my face. There was nothing peaceful and quiet about being a stone’s throw away from such a breathtaking display of God’s creation! But still, in a quiet moment with my husband next to me, I felt God’s power and His gentle but confident and loving voice whisper, “I’m still here. I will never leave you.”

The God of the roaring Niagara Falls is the same God of the babbling, peaceful brook. When we need Him to instill peace in the midst of our turmoil, He can. When we can step away from our circumstances and glory in His power and faithfulness, He’s in those moments as well. In every season, in every circumstance, He is exactly what we need when we need it.

No wonder we call Him Savior!

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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. 

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~ 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.

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