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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

It’s time to speak up about fathers. Our society has become increasing hostile to the role of fathers in the family. Movies and sitcoms portray fathers as more of a hindrance than a help to their families. The concept of an absentee or clueless father seems to be the norm today.

As strong women who live by God’s values, we can have a part in helping our men reclaim their place in the family. This is not accomplished by reminding them of their failures.

Instead, we need to treat them with respect and consideration, and model for our children and grandchildren the importance we attach to their role. We need to affirm their strengths and their wise choices. Our support of dads can free our men to receive with joy the responsibility God has placed on them as fathers. 

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~ Written by Viki Rife 

It happened during Christmas break from college my freshman year. During the break between Sunday School and church I stopped at the bathroom. I heard a mom bring her preschooler into the next stall. The youngster asked a question that had apparently been triggered by something he had heard in his children’s class. I held my breath. It was a tricky question. I felt sorry for the mother.

While I don’t remember the question any more, or what she said, I remember thinking, “Wow, you really need to know your theology to be a mom!” It awakened in me a desire to dig into God’s Word so that someday I would be a wise mom who knew how to take advantage of her child’s curiosity to point them to God’s truth.

I don’t think that mom knew how important her child’s question was, not just for him, but for a shy college student in the next stall. Her biblical perspective inspires me to this day. Thank you, dear friend—you never volunteered to be my mentor, but you are!

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~ Written by Viki Rife

Squinting through my windshield wipers, I noticed a group of children walking to school. Their hooded rain jackets and umbrellas grasped tightly, they trudged along hunched against the driving rain.

All except one little girl. Her hair drenched, she danced along holding her umbrella upside down, frequently peering in to see how much water she had collected. She was beaming!

I couldn’t help but think of the old song “Showers of Blessing.” So often we ask for blessings, but we want them to come without any discomfort on our part. We try to shield ourselves from the very inconveniences that bring the answers to our prayers. How much better to turn our protective umbrellas upside down and joyfully, thankfully, collect the blessings as God rains them down!

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~ Written by Nicole Miller

The story was not a new one, but on this day it resonated with us in a way that amazed us. We were sharing with our SMM (Sisters Mentoring with a Mission) girls in our after-school discipleship ministry the story of Abram. God asked him to leave his homeland and go without knowing the details. We asked them, “What do you think his response was?” They had a variety of answers ranging from “maybe he had questions” or “maybe he hesitated.” They landed on the answer, “Abram said yes!”

As we asked the girls what their responses would have been, many of them replied that they would have said yes too, even if they had questions. It’s easy as young people, and even as adults, to hope, even believe deeply, that we will always respond “yes” when God asks us to do things. Knowing this, my co-leader Santina and I wanted to draw in a bit of our own story and tie it into the 7th grade girls’ lives.

We had previously asked the girls how important SMM was to them now that they are in middle school. The answer was unanimous: “Very important.” So we shared with them, “Last year when you asked us to have SMM in the middle school we could have said no.”

The look on their faces was showed their shock. They couldn’t believe we could have made that choice. When they asked about it in the elementary school SMM last year, though, we had no idea how to make a middle school program happen. But it felt as if God was asking us to do it. So we answered yes without knowing how it would happen. Through our efforts, but mostly God opening doors, we were able to start our after-school SMM in the middle school this year.

As we retold this story, we wanted to share the complete picture with our girls. So we kept going back. If Santina hadn’t decided to serve in SMM several years ago, she would not have met these girls when they were in 4th grade. In fact, if she hadn’t said yes to going to Grace College she would not have been able to say yes to SMM.

Following this line of thought brought us back to a series of “yeses.” If I hadn’t said yes to leading the elementary SMM, there would never have been a program in the first place. On and on, the series of single “yes” moments went. A simple opportunity to say “yes” or “no” to God may seem like a small moment, but you never know where one “yes” will lead. This train of thought was a great lesson to teach our girls, but ultimately it gave us as leaders joy and hope.

Sometimes ministry can begin to feel tedious. It is easy to lose sight of how big God’s story is. As we took time to connect to these girls’ lives, God moved our hearts to recognize how precious our “yeses” have been. We have had the chance to know one another, to know our girls, to serve God, just because of a mindset of simply answering yes when God asked. 

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~ Written by Viki Rife

I couldn’t get out of bed, not even to walk eight feet into the bathroom. If my feet touched the floor, my plans would be ruined.

I had asked God to wake me up at 5 a.m. because I couldn’t use an alarm. I had already learned that if I made any sound at all, at least one of my three children would wake up. I was desperate for time with God before the craziness of my day started.

I reached for my Bible. Two minutes later, there was a knock on the door. It had to be our two-year-old — he wasn’t yet tall enough to turn the handle.

Sighing, I went to let him in. “Come snuggle with me,” I told him. “Mommy’s going to pray.” I opened the small yellow notebook that contained my prayer reminders. At the top of each page was a name, and below was a list of ways I was praying for that person. As I turned each page, I would tell my son who we were praying for and what details were on the list. Then we would pray together.

After that he started coming in every morning. Within a few days he was volunteering to pray for certain requests. When a prayer was answered, I would let him place the check mark beside it.

One day he said, “Can I hold the book?” With great reverence he took the little prayer book and placed it on his lap. He opened it and said, “This page is about Daddy.”

“How should we pray for Daddy?” I asked him. To my surprise, he knew the entire list. That day he went through the prayer notebook telling me what each page said.

Now, thirty years later, I can look back and see that those morning interruptions were God’s way of answering my prayers. I had asked God to help my children be prayer warriors. He showed me how to help them develop their prayer life through helping them experience it. It leaves me wondering how many other interruptions in my life are opportunities in disguise.

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~ Written by Melissa Kreis

As the tow-headed boy lathered his hands and turned the water on full-blast, he asked, “How come the water sometimes goes down the drain and sometimes it stops?”

Not sure how to explain this concept to a 4-year-old, I answered rather blandly, “I don’t know.”

“How does it work under the sink?” he persisted.

Now I was really stumped. I am not in the least bit mechanically inclined. So I offered the same answer, “I don’t know.”

Thoroughly puzzled, Derek* incredulously stated, “But you’re the teacher! You should know everything about this!”

Smiling and chuckling to myself, I answered the curious and candid young one, “I don’t know everything, but God does!”

I believe with my mind that God knows everything. I believe He knows my every thought, wish, action, and motive. But when I am stressed or worried about my present or future circumstances, my first reaction isn’t always to talk with God first. I do sometimes, but other times I try to pull myself up by my bootstraps or phone a friend.

However, I certainly don’t know everything, and neither do my caring friends. Only God does. So, my prayer is that the head knowledge that God knows everything would transfer to my emotions and heart when I am anxious. May He be the One I ultimately rely on for strength, and the first friend I call.

*Not his real name.

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