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~ Written by Viki Rife

At 16 I graduated high school and got a job at a local hospital. One of my responsibilities involved making sure the radiologists had film cassettes loaded with new film.

One afternoon I got a call from a radiologist who was using the portable x-ray machine in the operating room. He needed more cassettes. I was to meet him in the scrub-room to deliver them.

When I walked into the room, my eye caught sight of the steel counter to the left. To my amazement, it contained five or six dead infants in various stages of development. I remember one had black wavy hair. My first thought was, “how could that many stillbirths occur in one day in our small town?” My teenage mind was horrified.

Just then, a nurse came out of the OR. She saw me staring over at the counter and frowned. “I don’t know why people can’t clean up after themselves,” she grumbled. She went over to the counter, grabbed a trash can, and with one quick move swept all the little bodies into it. Then she pulled out the bag and tied it shut.

I remember thinking, “How will the parents know which child is theirs when they’re ready to bury them?” My mind absolutely could not absorb the fact that the recent ruling of Roe vs. Wade had anything to do with it.

I hid the trauma deep inside and never told a soul.

But my heart was left very vulnerable when it comes to baby deaths. I grieve them with an intensity that has always seemed more than what the average person does. When my own granddaughter died in the womb the week before her due date, I was absolutely numb for two months. Something painful was stirring. It took me a while to figure out what it was. It was the memory of those beautiful dead babies.

Finally, as part of grieving my granddaughter, I allowed myself to examine the incident from so long ago and started processing the emotions that surround it. I was eventually able to share that operating room experience with my husband and a few trusted friends. They have been balm to my aching heart.

I thought I had worked through the trauma. Then last month a couple very close to me lost their baby at 25 weeks. The mother was induced, and I waited in the hallway while the baby was delivered. I saw the doctor leave the room, and a few minutes later a nurse came out carrying a tied trash bag.

The memory from that long-ago day hit like a fist to the stomach. I ran to the bathroom to throw up.

At that point I realized that my horror of living in a society that throws away its children is never going to go away. Thankfully, I soon was able to go into the room and see the baby in her father’s arms. She had not been in that bag. Her tiny body was being treated with dignity and respect by her grieving parents. And, in a strange way, I found the scene comforting. Parents should care that much about their child.

We cannot change our society, no matter what laws we pass. New York’s recent legalization of full-term abortion is only a symptom of our disease of devaluing human life. May God’s people go to our knees in prayer for our society, and may we reach out to help people see the God in whose image they’re made!

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

She didn’t believe me. I told her I saw Christ in her—that I’d seen Christ-like reconciliation at work within her—and she felt as if I was merely tickling her ears. I stopped trying to verbally encourage her after a while simply because it was obvious she wasn’t hearing truth above the lies her mind was fostering.

Before I walked away from my friend that afternoon, I simply said, “You’re Christ’s masterpiece. Just because you don’t believe that right now doesn’t make it any less true. I’m treating you with the value you deserve, simply because you belong to the Lord.”

During our time together, I was reminded just how powerful the Body of Christ should be in each other’s lives as Christians. There are seasons where doubts, lies, and confusion overtake us. No matter how strong our faith in God is, sometimes this fallen world speaks just as strongly.

It’s during those times we need to lean on each other to speak truth when we can’t hear it ourselves. After all, if we are the Body of Christ, if we all play different roles, doesn’t that mean we constantly need each other?

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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 Cassie Harris

I hear myself praying, “Do whatever it takes, Lord,” quite often for my unsaved loved ones. After over a decade of watching them walk further and further away from the truth of the Gospel, it’s a prayer of desperation. I have no idea how else to pray, so I cling to the promise of the Holy Spirit’s intercession in Romans 8:26.

Recently, God took one step further in answering that prayer for a friend of mine. As I stood on the sidelines and watched his life crumble just a little more, I bravely yet foolishly questioned God’s sovereignty. I heard my heart question God with inquiries like, “Wasn’t that too much? Do you really understand what my friend needs? Aren’t You scaring him away?”

Needless to say, my friend survived the ordeal. It even made him ask questions about the Lord he hadn’t asked since we were kids. I rejoiced with him, but my heart was humbled.

Often, as “mature Christians” we forget that our faith is actively being stretched and strengthened by God. We seem to forget that experiences now transform our faith just as much as they did when we were just starting out in our faith.

Being made like Christ, being transformed into His likeness, is a process. It can be scary and filled with unknowns. When we forget to rely on the sovereignty of God, those transformations can feel more fearful than joyful.

Our faith isn’t about our strength, it’s about God’s grace.

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~ Written by Viki Rife 

A friend and I were having a heart-to-heart in the lobby at church when all of a sudden her eyes widened in panic. She made a beeline for the bathroom. Concerned, I followed to make sure she was okay. I found her in front of the mirror, frantically rearranging her hair. “Why didn’t you tell me I had a spike sticking up?” she exclaimed when she saw me walk in. Apparently a glimpse of herself in the lobby mirror had triggered her actions.

I wasn’t sure how to apologize. Honestly, I hadn’t noticed. It really wasn’t that obvious. But she had an idea of how she should look, and was embarrassed to be seen any other way.

It made me think of how many expectations I put on myself that no one else has. For example, we are mortified if anyone sees us without makeup, or in any way that doesn’t meet what we think people expect. We even have unrealistic expectations with our homes, and are embarrassed to let anyone see anything less than a magazine-worthy showpiece.

It makes me wonder what it will take for us to be real, to be comfortable with who we are. I remember when a friend died, several people reminisced that she was comfortable in her own skin. That’s how I want to live. The problem with wearing a mask is that it’s the mask that gets love, and we are left feeling unloved.

What if we let go of the mask and let people love us for who we really are? How would that change our satisfaction with our friendships? Let people love the real you.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

Don’t use a GPS to get to my house. You won’t make it there. Despite their amazing ability to track where you are, Global Positioning Systems will claim that you have arrived about a half mile before you actually reach our place.

Believe me, I’m not criticizing. I remember all too well the days of navigating LA freeways with a map in hand. I’d take my eyes off the road, finally find my place on the map, look up to check the road and lose my place on the map. It was just as dangerous as texting while driving.

So my recent trip to California felt like a breeze. My favorite feature of my GPS is the fact that it tells you ahead of time which lane to get into so you’re ready for the next exit. And I absolutely love its ability to redirect after I’ve taken a wrong turn.

It got me started thinking about how much I appreciate our spiritual GPS: God’s Purpose Secured. God has a purpose for me, and all I need to do is pay attention and follow directions. 

Even when He tells me to get into a lane I don’t want to be in, He is positioning me for whatever exits He wants me to take that will lead to arriving at His purpose for me. And He never gives up on me when I take a wrong turn. Praise God, He will fulfill His purposes for me. And He won’t stop until He brings me safely to my destination.

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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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