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Archive for the ‘Growth’ Category

~ Written by Viki Rife

For several years I’ve been asking God, “Where is the thrill I used to get when I read my Bible?” I used to be like a hummingbird, savoring all the rich nectar of each passage as I held myself poised in the air by the rapid beat of my wings. I rejoiced in the bright colors and rich promises as I read through God’s Word. My stomach fluttered like I was on a roller coaster.

Now, I read chapter after chapter before the tickle in my stomach happens, if it happens at all. The colors of familiar passages don’t attract me like they used to. So my question to God about losing the thrill of reading Scripture has come from a deep concern that I’m losing my first love.

God is so gracious in answering! He pointed out an eagle to me on a recent outing. “Do you see how that eagle just spreads out her wings and relaxes? She lets the wind carry her. She sees more than just a few flowers. She has the whole vista: mountains and streams and trees, all flowing together.

“When you read your Bible now, you aren’t marveling in the same way in anticipation of the rich promises I’ve made. You have experienced My answers in so many ways that instead you are hearing the Spirit gently prodding, ‘Remember when you saw Me do that?’ Part of the thrill you felt was tied to your efforts to find Me. Now your faith has developed confidence that gives you wings to soar!”

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~Written by Tabby McMonagle

“For God’s sake, come undone,” said no one ever. But what if it is exactly what we need to do in order to see God? Personally, I have been trying to hold it together for years now. Not until this past year, when I have come completely undone, have I been able to surrender the control I thought I had.

Growing up I felt like the message I heard was, “Keep it together. Be strong. You’ll figure it out. Keep trying.” All good ideas, but none of them encouraged me to rely on anyone but myself. If I could will it, I could do it.

What a different reality I face today than what I was prepared for! Things don’t always go my way. My good deeds and hard work don’t always get me what I want.

The biggest disappointment was no matter how much faith I could muster, the answers to my prayers were still in God’s hands. They depended on His approval not my persuasion or the faith I brought. In fact, I learned my faith is a gift from God; nothing I do can get me more of it.

How I want to grasp at control. I want to know what happens next. The unknown of my circumstances has me at my wits’ end. My mind, my body; all of it is undone. I told a friend I could probably walk on water, I feel so weak. The Bible says when we are weak He is strong. In the very depths of my heart, the despair I have in understanding I have no control over anything in my life, or in anyone else’s, has me to the very end of myself. I have to put God as my only hope.

When we take life, and all it has to offer, and break it down, the only thing that matters is saving souls for Christ. It has nothing to do with our moment in history but it has everything to do with God’s plans. It is then we realize that we need to come undone. So, for God’s sake, come undone. We need a new perspective. We need God’s perspective.

I am not there yet. I am still sifting through the ashes of what is left of my control issues. I don’t want to look for anything to salvage; I want only to move forward with God’s help. I want to rely on Him; not what I have to offer but what He can do with me as I am. I don’t want to hear, “For God’s sake, keep it together.” For God’s sake, I pray I come undone.

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~Written by Erin Shuler

Over the past month, I have gone through many transitions and big life changes. Between quitting my job, planning a wedding, and moving across the world to Uganda, two simple words—let go—have been following me around a lot lately. Several weeks ago, I started having anxiety attacks. I’ve struggled with anxiety for a long time, but not to a point of being crippled by fear or sobbing uncontrollably. The attacks came out of nowhere, and I had no defense for them.

Letting go didn’t feel possible. Right before I moved, a friend suggested that I should “let go.” God was in control. I finally realized there was nothing I could do about the circumstances themselves, but I could change how I responded to them. After that, when anxiety hit, I started praying through the attacks. I came out on the other side of an attack feeling closer and more connected to God. He was using my fear and my anxiety to draw me closer to himself and all I had to do was let go.

My anxiety wasn’t gone but it wasn’t as severe. As I learn to let go, I am learning to lean on God. As I left the USA and moved to Uganda, I was once again reminded I’m not done learning the lesson of letting go. I was going to be traveling with another family to Uganda, but a few days before our departure, I got a phone call saying circumstances had changed. Because of circumstances out of our control, I would be making the trip by myself. Deep breath. Let go.

I got to the airport and my first flight was delayed, made it just in time to board the next flight and then sat for over an hour as the flight crew was dealing with baggage issues. Sigh. Let go. I made my next connecting flight just to sit on the runway for another hour and a half. Let go. When I finally arrived, I was exhausted and was without my luggage because it didn’t make the connecting flight in Amsterdam. Okay, God! I get it. I need to let go. I’m clearly not in control!

After sleeping through the night and partially through the next day, I sat on the front porch and drank in the stillness and the quiet. I decided to take time to process and do something to calm my anxious thoughts. Flipping through a coloring book, I found a page which read “Let Go” in big bold letters. As I sat coloring and listening to worship music, the same reoccurring phrase played song after song. Can you guess what it was? Let go.

So, I’m sitting here, working on letting go because my God is never going to let go of me.

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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

“Mommy, please don’t let them do this. Mommy, I’m scared. Mommy? Why?!” I was three years old, and I was undergoing even more medical testing. Because I was so young, the MRI came with tightly-wrapped gauze and a foam wall surrounding my head to ensure I didn’t move during the excruciatingly-long test. I had worked myself into a horrible migraine and anxiety attack, and I wanted the test to be over now.

In my childish perspective, I was incredibly confused why my parents just sat there—obviously upset, but still doing nothing. I was in pain. I was scared. I didn’t want to be a good, cooperative little girl anymore. Why didn’t they rescue me? What was wrong with them?

What I didn’t understand was, though the test was painful, what was behind the pain would be worth every ounce of my discomfort. The test results gave my medical team a better understanding of the issues which plagued my body. Mom and Dad knew the end goal, and they had come to a heartbreaking but necessary decision. My temporary pain was acceptable pain.

I’ve come to understand as an adult that my loving and attentive God watches my life in much the same way. We live in a fallen world where life experiences bring agonizing pain, confusion and despair. It’s easy to look at my Heavenly Father and scream, “Abba? Why?! Why are You allowing this? Can’t You see I’m nearly shattered? Aren’t you supposed to be good?”

But He knows something I don’t. He knows the end goal. He knows just what I need to become more like His Son.

In the end, I can almost hear Him whisper with tears in His eyes, “Child, this pain is temporary. Hang in there. The end result will be worth every second of your pain.

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~ Written by Cassie a Rayl

“You’re one of the most joyful people I know,” my friend said as she hugged me tighter. “For someone to go through as much as you have, it’s just shocking, I suppose.” I smiled and thanked her for the compliment, and then walked away trying not to cry. I’m joyful?

People actually see joy in me? How?

Life hasn’t been easy lately. Friendships have disappeared, dreams have been put on hold, and loved ones are in constant turmoil. I feel as if my entire countenance is filled with processing these things and begging God for relief and restoration. Nothing seems joyful about that right now.

But then I have to remember joy, unlike happiness, is a choice. Joy doesn’t mean the tears stop, the heart burdens are lifted, and there’s not a cloud in the sky. Joy means I know Who holds the future, and I’m willing to trust the God Who holds all my unknowns.

Proverbs 31:25 (ESV) says, “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” It doesn’t say anything about her troubles disappearing, but it does speak of the God she trusts. Her trust in God is her identity. It’s her joy.

At times, joy may not feel joyful. But God remains our absolute constant when circumstances change and our hearts experience valleys. Because of that—because of Him—joy can always be our first choice.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

My first real experience with the game of ping-pong was on a ship. There was a ping-pong table on a lower side deck. The deck was actually a long, narrow corridor with a railing separating it from the waves. The ping pong table was popular, so a ten-year-old like myself didn’t have much chance of getting a turn.

Then the ship hit a storm as we approached Rio de Janeiro. The storm was so intense that it delayed the ship’s arrival by two days. Virtually all the passengers and a good number of the crew took to their cabins, seasick. For some reason I felt fine, so a friend and I headed straight for the ping-pong deck.

You guessed it. Learning to land that ball on the table when the ship is tossing in a storm is not really the way to learn to play well. We never could predict where the table would be or at what angle. Ping-pong balls don’t handle well in high winds and high waves, either. To make a long story short, I concluded that I didn’t want ping-pong in my life.

I feel a similar frustration when I try to balance the messages that keep pinging into my life. I missed an important e-mail because it somehow went to my bulk mail. My husband sends a text asking me to pick him up at the car shop and the message doesn’t reach my phone for 52 minutes. I’m awakened at 1 a.m. by an urgent amber alert from a state 1,500 miles away, where I visited last week. A telemarketer calls from three time zones away just as I’m finally asleep.

We live in a world of ping-pong relationships. Information is coming at us much faster than our brains can keep up. The table keeps bouncing. How are we expected to manage it all?

The overwhelming communication demands of our society and the constant interruptions of every project we attempt is like ping-pongs constantly hitting our brains. We desperately need a break.

Jesus was aware of the danger of relational ping-pong. Luke 5:16 tells us that He often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. I guess I’ll turn off my computer, leave my phone in another room, and spend some time seeking His advice for my bruised brain. I don’t have to live with a ping-pong mind.

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