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Archive for the ‘Disappointment’ Category

~ 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 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.” 

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~ Written by Pat Ashcraft

Barbara was the youngest of four children. Born in the early 1920’s, she lived through the depression. When she was seven, her mother died and she was raised by her dad and grandmother. She later met and married Bob Mason; together they had five children in six years. Their first child died at childbirth.

Barbara was very intelligent, funny, and outgoing. Everywhere she went, she was the life of the party. She was a good mother, wife, friend and neighbor. At the age of 33, after several years of problems, Barbara was hospitalized for the first time for bipolar disorder.

I know all this about Barbara because she was my mother. I am the youngest of her children.

My mother’s life and our family were greatly affected by her illness. In our house growing up, we never used the words “mental illness.” Our dad would just say, “your mom is sick, try to help out more.” We were all adults before we knew what her diagnosis was. We never discussed with anyone else that our mother was mentally ill.

My oldest sister took over running the household. My next sister took care of mom but also learned to cook at a young age. My brother coped by ignoring everything and keeping busy outside the home. I was the “baby” and was cared for and protected by the older kids. I probably had the most normal childhood, as I was allowed to be a child and not take on adult duties.

All of us had various issues that affected our schooling. It wasn’t until 12th grade that anyone asked me if there were problems at home. Even then, I didn’t tell the principal that life was a total upheaval at times because of my mother. At that point, I was soon going to graduate and leave home, so it seemed like a moot point.

When I was 16 years old, my mother was having a very bad manic episode. She hadn’t slept or eaten or stopped talking for about five days. She was totally confused. She would pick fights over the smallest things. We were all exhausted.

My dad decided to put her in the car and drive her to the hospital. She knew that meant another stay in the psychiatric ward and didn’t want to go. I was helping my dad get her shoes and socks on and helping with her coat. She was fighting us every step of the way. I was thoroughly disgusted with my mom. I had had enough of her and all we had to live with. I was tired and angry that I didn’t have a “normal” mom. I said to my dad, “How can you stand this?” He stopped what he was doing, looked at me and said, “I don’t ‘stand’ anything. I love your mother. And when you love someone, you take care of them. Don’t you ever say anything like that about your mother again.” Wow, what a lesson in love.

When my mother was at her worst, her least attractive and most difficult to deal with, my dad chose to love her. What a picture of God’s love for me! When I was at my worst, ugly from sin and full of pride, God chose to love me. He sent His only Son to save me. That’s unconditional love at its best!  

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~ Written by Cassie Harris

I shrieked when I saw it. The temperature was bearable! For the last week, Indiana had been seeing temperatures which would make even Alaskans cringe. I was getting tired of feeling as if I was having an asthma attack just because I stepped outside to get to my car. But finally. My phone boasted the truth:

It was warm enough to snow.

When I stepped out my front door, I was met with a wintery wind. Still, I celebrated the relative warmth. I then promptly turned around to get my hat and gloves. Sure, it was warm. It wasn’t that warm.

I can sometimes treat my spiritual growth the same way I treat the weather. I see some type of breakthrough in a sin cycle and I want to act as if that simple crack in the rock means the mountain of sin is no longer there. I celebrate the shift in action for a day, maybe a week, before I’m met with sin’s blustery reality.

Yes, because of Christ, I saw victory in my ungodly habits, but I’m still a sinner.

I have a choice. I can either stand in the “wintery winds” of my sinfulness and eventually die of hopelessness. Or, I can turn around and look at my Savior and allow Him to give me what I need to be prepared for what lies before me spiritually.

Just like the weather warming up, our sanctification is a process. Allow God to be a part of that process. He is not shocked when the winds of life take our breath away.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

“Don’t settle for what you alone can make of yourself.” 

This is the motto for FGBC leaders as they gather in various regions for annual Focus retreats. At the Southwest retreat this week, the question was asked of seasoned leaders, “What was the best advice you ever received? What was the worst?”

One of the “worst” pieces of advice to pastors that seemed to resonate with everyone was, “Don’t get too close to your people; it will open you to getting hurt.” Having grown up in a pastor’s home, I deeply understand the sentiment behind it. There’s enough pain in life without being wounded by your own sheep. And I’ve seen deep wounds.

There’s a problem with that approach, though. It just isn’t biblical. Paul speaks many times in his epistles about how dear the believers are to him. He looks forward to being with them so they can encourage him as he encourages them. We are to build one another up—you can’t do that if you’re using a ten-foot pole! Building God’s church is a hands-on, stone-on-stone effort. Leaders must model the kinds of relationships they expect to see among their followers. They must remember that they, too, are only another stone in God’s building.

The discussion left me with two prayers:

1. Lord, help me draw close to your people, even the ones who hurt me.

2. Lord, help me bless those who lead me, not tear them down.

I hope those are your prayers, too. Together, we can help each other make more of ourselves.

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~Written by Cassie Harris

Will this really effect my eternity?  

I’ve had to learn to ask this question throughout the day. It’s been even harder to answer the question honestly. 

I’m such a planner and routine-lover that when my expectations aren’t met, I have a tendency to feel as if my world is shattering. It can be caused by anything from a forgotten dinner date to a ruined possession. If it’s not in the equation of what I planned my day to consist, I get frustrated. If I can stop the frustration from cascading off my lips, I at least get sarcastic and short with those around me. 

Though my reactions are wrong, the heart of the matter is I am in desperate need of consistency and dependable things in my life. When things don’t go correctly, I often walk away feeling hurt.  

At one point, like so many times before, God came to my rescue several years ago with one simple yet bold truth. He is my constant. He is dependable. 

John 10:28-29 promises that if we are His, if we have chosen to follow Him, no one can snatch us out of His hand. Therefore, our eternity is secure. The one thing that truly matters is never effected and never changed. 

What a perspective shift to remember that when I’m looking for consistency and a firm foundation when my plans crumble, the reality is, Jesus Christ never left.   

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~Written by Viki Rife

It happened again today. I was reading an article in a respected Christian magazine. As it described a young pastor’s battle with cancer, it referred to it as a tragedy. And I couldn’t help wonder: is it right for God’s people to describe a death, ordained by God, as a tragedy? Why are we buying into the world’s definition?

The word “tragedy” and its companions (disaster, horrendous, etc.) are descriptions of how the world sees such situations. But what are we communicating when we use those terms? That God is not in control? That He isn’t good? There is something about these descriptions that draws our attention away from trust and replaces it with helplessness and hopelessness. Of course these situations are hard and painful for those of us who remain, but it just seems to me that someone’s graduation to glory should never be couched in those terms.

As long as we use the world’s terminology to describe our circumstances, we will be just as fearful as they are. Let’s pray that God will give us eyes to see beyond to the victory He is accomplishing.

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