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Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“Can I pray for you two?” He asked while his hands, shaking because of Parkinson’s, grabbed both of us without waiting for an answer. As we do every time we go see my husband’s grandpa, we gladly agreed. Grandpa’s eyes filled with tears as he turned scripture into prayer, and prayer into a blessing over our lives.

He tagged onto the end of his prayer, “Jesus, they’re doing great things, um, this man and his wife. Just bless them. I love them so much. Amen.”

Then it was my turn to tear up. Parkinson’s and age have slowly been taking independence away from this man who has adopted me as his own because I married his grandson. His memory has slowly clouded out names and other important information. In so many ways, the frustration alone could have filled him with bitterness and anger.

But it doesn’t. Instead, those things make him press even more deeply into love and faith. It doesn’t matter that he can’t remember our roles in ministry. It doesn’t matter that he can’t remember our names. In that moment, he wanted Jesus in our midst, and nothing was going to stop him from being the tool Jesus used to bless our lives.

Grandpa didn’t have to know everything, he just had to know the Master.  

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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 

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

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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~ Written by Viki Rife 

The kid down the street couldn’t resist ringing doorbells. He’d move along the row of houses, pushing buttons and hiding when someone opened a door. Ten times a day wasn’t too often for him to interrupt our lives.

Just ignore the doorbell, right? But my dad was the pastor, and because we didn’t have a phone in those days, the ringing of our doorbell could mean someone was in crisis. There was no way our conscience would allow us to ignore the doorbell when it rang. I felt tyrannized by that unpredictable bell.

Recently I realized that I’m caught in that tyranny again. This time, it’s my smartphone. It lets me know when I get a text, an e-mail, or certain Facebook posts or messages. It lets me know if there’s an Amber alert, or a Silver alert, or a weather alert. It reminds me that I have 17 tasks to do this day, or that I have an appointment, or that someone from a group text I was sent two days ago has finally gotten around to responding.

Because I am a conscientious person, I feel obligated to answer. Even if someone sends a mass Facebook message to all their friends that says, “Have a good day,” I feel I should at least acknowledge it with an emoji. I feel tyrannized by my phone. Because I travel a lot, people often don’t realize that I’m in a different time zone, so they send a text that awakens me at unearthly hours.

Yes, my phone has a button to turn it off. I have been turning off notifications on apps that intrude. But my parents are both in poor health, and I want to be available if needed. And I feel ambiguous because sometimes people are waiting on my answer to accomplish what they need to do, and are frustrated that it takes me so long to see their message and respond.

The way my brain feels right now, I understand what Jesus meant when He told His disciples to come aside and rest. The constant demands of everyone at any time was taking a toll on His relationship with His Father. I’m finally allowing myself to let go of the guilt for not being at everyone’s disposal constantly, and making conscious efforts to sit quietly, uninterrupted, at the feet of Jesus. Only He can teach me to live at peace in a frantic world. 

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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 Rosa Munoz 

My life is full of new beginnings. In January 1983 I came to the USA, a new country, with great expectations of new adventures with my husband Hector Melendez. We had very little financial resources and connections. We had left our family and friends in our native land, Puerto Rico. Immigrating to a new country, culture, place, and environment was exciting but challenging.

I remembered praying and telling God, “I will look to you, follow your will with all my heart and mind. Oh! my Heavenly Father, my Lord all the days of my life.” The Bible reminds us about God’s faithfulness in Lamentations 3:21-24. His hope, faithfulness, goodness and provision have been evident throughout the 34 years of my life here in the USA.

We started out in Miami, Florida, for seven years. I experienced growth in a different aspect of my life. We then moved to Tampa in 1990. We had hoped for a baby, but it wasn’t until September 1992 that our miracle baby, Matthew, came to us. We rejoiced in God’s faithfulness in giving us a child.

A year later, my husband died in a car accident. I began a new, different life as a young widow with my little one-year-old in Tampa. Once again I waited on God, looking to Him and relying on His faithfulness, hope and provision. My focus became seeking God’s direction for taking care of my little boy and pleasing Him. I praise God for the godly women He brought to my life and the prayer partners who strengthened and helped me to grow daily in Jesus Christ. I was learning that I was not alone.

The next summer I met a widower, Jesus Munoz, with three children. He had been through similar life experiences through losing his wife in a car accident. God was preparing a new beginning for our lives. After four years of friendship and God’s perfect timing we married in July of 1998. This brought on another new beginning as we embarked on blending two families, church planting and leadership development. It has been a great gift to our lives. I have been richly blessed to meditate on my memories of new beginnings and remember that God is faithful. Our hope is in Him.

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