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Archive for the ‘investing’ Category

~ Written by Viki Rife

I have to admit, I’m a sucker for fox pups. A mother fox uses our barn every few years to raise her litter. When I watch these furry little balls of energy playing on the lawn by the barn, my heart melts. I love how the first time the mother brings them out, they have to leap high with each step just to get through the grass. I love watching them wrestle with each other, tumbling over and over as they roll down the hill. I hold my breath when a car whizzes down our road, hoping they don’t run in front of it.

As I enjoy and protect the young foxes, however, I manage to deliberately forget they won’t be cute balls of fur for very long. A time will come when I’ll hear a neighbor complaining about losing their free-range chickens. Or, as happened a few years ago, we’ll wake up to find the remains of a fawn in our yard. Cute, fluffy little foxes become sly and wily big foxes who can do a lot of damage. I know the foxes don’t belong in our neighborhood, but I overlook that knowledge and let them stay in our barn.

Unfortunately, I often view my pet sins as innocent bouncy balls of fur, instead of foreseeing their sneaky, deadly outcomes. I give them a safe place to grow, and I even enjoy their antics for a season, until they are big and strong enough to bring consequences into my life. They are so hard to get rid of once they’ve taken over! Lately I’ve been using the fox metaphor to keep reminding myself: “This seems like a tiny, innocuous sin, but someday it will get the best of you. Don’t let it stay in your barn. It has no place in your life.”

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

Two years ago, my mom bought me a lilac bush for our first home. Her gift left me—someone whose thumb is more brown than green—equally elated and terrified. I was even more scared when she told me it wouldn’t bloom for at least the first year. How in the world am I supposed to know if it died or not? I thought in a panic.

The bush was dutifully planted where I would see it every day and remember to water it. I inevitably forgot about it, anyway—just like every other “brown thumb” I know. Occasionally, I’d water the plant faithfully for a few weeks, but overall, I was just too exhausted by life to spend much time nurturing it.

Imagine my surprise when my husband announced one day from his view of our backyard, “Hey! It’s blooming! The lilac bush. It actually has flowers on it!” I had considered the bush just another lost cause, but it had survived multiple years of not-so-great care and bloomed anyway.

Sometimes, it can seem like we all have a spiritual brown thumb. We come before the Throne of Grace and mutter, “This is all I have the energy to offer, Lord.” Seeds of belief and strength have been sown, but it’s hard to keep the faith when our faith feels dormant.

If that’s your experience, take courage. Maybe you’re like my lilac bush, and God’s allowing those seeds of truth to rest hidden in your heart for a time. Just because I couldn’t see the lilac bush’s growth didn’t mean it wasn’t there. If God can make a plant bloom after years of dormancy, he can do the same beautiful transformation in our hearts as well.

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~Written by Viki Rife

It was a small thing; it was a huge thing. Although my friend told me the story decades ago, it still burns in my bones.

When my friend was growing up in Cuba, his parents offered a Good News gospel-sharing club for the children in their neighborhood. One boy who often came was a troublemaker. He and his brothers disrupted the group, sassed the adults, and made life unpleasant for everyone. Finally, my friend’s parents told the boys they weren’t allowed to come onto their property.

Every week after that, the boy and his brothers would be waiting outside the fence to my friend’s family farm. As the other kids trudged down the dirt path, the banished boys would pelt them with stones and sticks. They had been a problem when they were attended but were even more of a problem when forbidden to come!

I’ve always wondered what might have happened if some of the adults involved had taken the main troublemaker, if not the others, under their wing. What if some man had offered to take the boy fishing, away from the kids he felt he could bully? What if someone had taken an interest in him and shown him there was a better way to spend his life? What if he had seen someone show him the unconditional love of Jesus?

You see, that boy’s name was Fidel Castro. If you know much about world history, you know the cruelty visited on the Cuban people by this dictator. I know friends who had to live under his regime and were able to escape, but who still bear physical and emotional scars.

Might the history of Fidel Castro have been different if someone who loved Jesus had reached out and shown that love? Because I don’t know, I am committed to reaching out to hard-to-love people with the love of Christ.

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~ Written by Sharon MacMillan

Recently, I pulled out my mom’s photo album and came upon some family memorabilia. I eagerly shared my recently-discovered treasures with my two sisters. There were recitals, high school plays, charity sports events, school projects, etc. I sent up a brief ‘thank you’ to my parents for all they had poured into our lives.

There were no pictures, though, of the arguments over who would dry or wash the dishes. What about the complaining over what someone had done to the other? We had differences in personalities which strained our relationships. As we left home, those rifts became a habit for me that alienated my sisters from me and me from them.

What happened? My sisters had wanted to connect with me but in my insecurities, I had mastered the art of isolation and self protection. . It gave me a false sense of security and comfort. This pattern of sin also developed in other relationships: people I didn’t feel an affinity for at church, people in my neighborhood who seemed different from me, and people in my own family whom I said I loved, but only conditionally. It was painful to face this truth.

As I began confessing these attitudes and behaviors to my sisters, healing began. I saw a readiness in them to listen to me and love me in my vulnerability. I found a oneness with my sisters when we prayed together. . A new humility emerged, and surprisingly, God showed up and began to work in us. We celebrated answers to prayer. We were united in love with our Father.

I recognized I had distanced myself from my godly neighbor and her family because I didn’t understand our ethnic differences. I confessed my sin of isolation to her. We prayed together, feeling love for one another, free to explore a deeper relationship

This is why Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Lamb of God was slain. It was to save us from our hiding, our alienation, our own boundaries of comfort that end up dividing us and hurting others. Instead, we take on the risk of knowing God, becoming one with Him and His Son.

God’s big household of faith is a currently a messy family with all our self-protections, isolations and misunderstandings. Now wouldn’t be a good time for a family photo. But Jesus prayed for us and that prayer is certain to be answered:

“Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory, which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. . . And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You love Me may be in them and I in them” (John 17:24-26).

There is a future photo of God’s family album revealed in Revelation 5:9-13. Our Eternal Father is there on His Throne, popping His buttons as siblings from every tribe, tongue, people and nation on the earth bow before His Son, singing praises to the Lamb slain for the sin of the world. Everyone has eyes only for Him. How long our Father and His Son have waited for this moment! God has answered the prayer of His Son so beautifully as His children begin to look like their Brother in unity and love.

Always remember that in his great mercy, our Father lavishes his patience on us as we endure the process of becoming like Jesus. Let’s live with this picture of unity at the forefront of our minds!

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~ Written by Viki Rife

My friend planted 100 tulip bulbs in her yard last fall. She couldn’t even remember where they were all planted! They lay under snow all winter, then under the mud, until they came up and started to bloom. The entire area was awash with color! A blessed view for anyone staying home all day in quarantine.

As she described her investment, I was struck by the similarities to what I’m observing and experiencing during this pandemic. Those who have invested in spending time with God seem to be more resilient. Each truth about God that was lying under the surface has started to spring up to bring comfort and blessing. The more they planted, the more they’re reaping.

As the Charis Fellowship discusses our handling of the pandemic, we’ve talked about three stages. The first is the blizzard that causes us all to hunker down. The blizzard will be followed by winter, a time of venturing out occasionally. But then will come a new spring of opportunities. The more we invest now in our relationship with God, the stronger we will be and the more ready to bless others with truth.

Keep planting, dear friends! We never know how God will use it.

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~ Written By Viki Rife

My friend called me in a panic. “Are you okay?” she blurted as soon as I answered. “Why didn’t you answer my text? We have to take care of this now.”

I scrolled through my texts. Sure enough, there was the message, and it really was important. But my phone had been going off all day, people had stopped in with questions, and somehow the message got lost in everything else I was hearing.

All too often, I fear, the same thing happens in my relationship with God. I can get so busy serving Him, listening to all the voices clamoring, that I can’t really hear Him.

That’s why contemplative prayer has been so important in my life. Contemplative prayer for us as Christians is not like eastern religions or New Age, requiring us to empty our minds. Instead, it involves filling our minds with God, and only with Him. It’s meditating on Him and His Word in ways that can provide a conduit for us to think in tune with His thoughts.

Scientists say that the more we think about something, the deeper certain grooves become in our brain. This then causes our thoughts to quickly follow the “rut” that developed those grooves. Negative thoughts deepen negative grooves. Positive thoughts deepen (or develop) positive grooves. According to one author, just twelve minutes of contemplative prayer a day will produce, within eight weeks, groove changes that are visible in brain scans.

While human science is just now discovering these physical evidences, our Creator has known all along what is needed to transform our thinking. We are called to fix our eyes on Jesus. If that isn’t something you are currently doing, may I challenge you for the next two months to set an alarm for twelve minutes of thinking about God and who He is. This is not a time to ask, but to receive what He wants you to know. Start with key verses that help you focus on who He is.

At the end of the two months, assess the value of this practice. You never know how your mind will be renewed!

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~ Written by Viki Rife

I ran into him in the doctor’s waiting room. I was a young mom bringing in yet another sick child. “Jack” was several decades older. I had taught his children some years ago; recently I’d heard he was terminally ill. He updated me on his family and asked about mine. Then he started to talk about some mutual friends.

“I hear they’re starting their own business,” he said. “I’ve begged them not to do it.”

He must have seen the surprised look on my face. He explained, “I’ve seen what this particular industry does to you. I understand the draw of financial success, but I also understand what it will take to make a success of it. They have young children, and I can guarantee someday they’ll regret giving up this precious time with them.”

For the next 20 minutes he talked wistfully about the regrets he carried at this stage in his life. “I was too busy for my family. My kids didn’t really have a father. My wife didn’t have a husband. I was so determined to make a success of it.”

He sighed. “I did! My wife will be fine financially. But I have failed in what mattered the most: investing in my own heart and in the hearts of my family and those around me. I was a Christian, but didn’t have time to invest in my own spiritual growth, let alone in that of others. I have very little to show when I stand before the Lord. It grieves me deeply.”

The nurse called him and Jack started toward the exam rooms. Then, very deliberately, he turned and added, “I’ve put off the significance of Mark 8:36: ‘For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?’ I can’t undo it.”

I think of him whenever I hear that verse. It has especially been on my mind in the context of the Soul Care class we offer in various parts of the country. The care of our souls is the wisest investment God calls us to make as humans, but so often we push it to the background or think we can save it for later. But the time to invest is now!

If you are interested in more information about the Soul Care class, or if you would like your church to host it, go to www.ignite3126.org

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