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Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

~ 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 Viki Rife

The other day I had some extra time between appointments, so I stopped at an area park to enjoy the scenery and sunshine. An older couple pulled up in their boat to the pier. The man got out and backed a truck with a boat trailer up to the boat ramp. Then he got back in the boat and drove up the ramp. He fastened the boat to the trailer and drove the truck up a little ways. He then busied himself taking fishing poles out of the boat, etc. All the time the wife sat in the boat.

Finally, he took a small crane-like apparatus out of the back of the truck. He carefully spread out some strips of canvas and the women scooted onto them. He grabbed both ends, hooked them onto the crane, and with the push of a button was able to lift her off the boat and lower her into a waiting wheelchair.

He pushed the wheelchair around to the other side of the truck and helped her scoot herself onto something that looked like a stool. She pushed a button and it slowly lifted her level with the truck seat. Once she was safely in the truck, the man loaded the crane, stool and wheelchair into the truck. It had taken them 45 minutes to go through this process. I’m guessing they did the same thing in reverse when they started their fishing trip.

Their commitment to fishing blew me away. Why would anyone go to so much hassle? As I left for my next appointment, a tender voice probed, “Are you that committed to being a fisher of men?” I’ve been pondering it ever since. 

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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 Cindy Bushen

I’ve been told that I’m lacking in the laughter factor; that I take life to seriously. When my daughter suggested that I knit vests for their six chickens for Christmas, I thought, “Ok, that’s funny.” I imagined my son-in-law, who finds humor in the smallest of things, would be delighted with this Christmas gift. He was.

As the evening was winding down at our Christmas gathering, with just a couple friends and family remaining, Mike brought in a chicken to model a vest. The chicken appeared to be quite pleased with her new attire as she strutted around the family room. But true to a chicken’s nature, in just a few minutes there was a mess on the floor to clean up. My daughter headed upstairs to gather some paper towels to take care of the task. Mike disrobed the chicken and perched her on his arm to return her to the coop. Just as he reached the stairs, he stopped to comment to a guest. My daughter was coming down the stairs. Her eyes widened as she proclaimed, “Mike, this chicken is going to lay an egg! Seriously, it’s laying an egg!” Her eyes were three times wider than normal. We all participated in deep hysterical laughter that occurs when the totally unexpected happens.

Psalm 37:4 is a favorite passage of mine. The verse reads, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your hear.” While it may be a stretch to apply it to my chicken story, I believe that God orchestrates turns of events into unexpected humor for our delight.

This passage states that the desires of my heart will be given if I delight in the Lord, but I am certain that God delights even more when observing us enjoy (even to the hysterical point) the opportunities for laughter He creates. Only a close daily walk with the Lord will keep our hearts light and ready to observe what has been placed in our path for the purpose of delighting us. Today, slow your pace, observe the commonplace with an eye for the unexpected. God has a delightful experience just waiting for you.

   

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~ Written by Cindy Shuler

Enough! How much pain should I endure at the hands of those I love? That’s been my heart’s cry recently. With each infraction, I struggle to forgive, find hope and keep on loving. But when is it enough? Is it okay to place a protective shield around my heart? I’ve wrestled with this. It’s often what I want to do, but is that what’s best?

In a recent conversation with a friend, we talked about this very thing. How did Jesus respond when those he loved responded in ways that brought pain, both physical and emotional? I heard myself say, “He remained open to the pain for the sake of the relationship.” Honestly, that’s not what I wanted to hear, especially from my own mouth! I wanted to justify my protective shield. Still, as I reflected on it, I knew God was inviting me to a new level of trust.  

In Hebrews 12:2 we read of Jesus, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.” Because he understood the redemptive power of his Father’s plan, Jesus was willing to endure the pain and shame of the cross. Could it be that in willingly opening myself to potential hurt, I could have a small part in God’s work in the lives of others? Do I trust my Father’s heart enough to endure the pain so the relationship isn’t damaged, at least from my end? 

As I’ve chosen to lower the protective shield, I’ve caught glimpses of God at work. Yes, I still get burned and have to fight the urge to withdraw, but I’m also learning to trust God’s desire to reveal himself through my openess. Too, there’s a joy that surfaces as I surrender my comfort for his purposes.

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~ Written by Cassie Harris 

“You give people the ability to offend you. You don’t have to do that.” 

My friend’s words stuck with me throughout my career working in the homeless community. My culture told me I had a right to be offended by a lot of lifestyles, addictions, and belief systems I saw. Even more so, it seemed as if my culture was telling me that when I became offended, no one would blame me if I stopped reaching out to my offender again. 

There’s a problem with that approach, though. Walking away (and never returning) because I was offended by something said or done short-changed my ability to show Christ’s love to a hurting world. So, I had to learn how to cling to my identity in Christ in such a way that when I came up against a disagreement, I could walk away unscathed.  

In today’s day and age, we as Christians need to stop only hanging with the acceptable crowds, the less offensive crowds. With how marginalized Christianity is becoming, if we hide in our comfort zones, our spheres of influence will only become smaller and less powerful. 

Look at Jesus. He stuck to His convictions while surrounded by people who did terrifyingly offensive things. Not once did He not love those He disagreed with. What if we did the same thing? 

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~ Written by Viki Rife

For those who are struggling to be thankful this year because of the election results, I just want to share a thought. I understand the concerns of those who feel certain groups who tend to be marginalized will be neglected even more. However, for those of us who belong to the Kingdom of Heaven and are just passing through on this earth, I have a question. Where does the Bible say that it is the responsibility of  the government to care for the poor, the needy, the marginalized? According to my Bible, that is our  calling as followers of God. We are responsible to care for the “least of these.”

So it really shouldn’t matter what the government does. The question is, “Are we doing our job? Or have we abdicated our calling for the government to take over?” What concerns me most is that while the government may care for people’s physical well-being to some extent, it can never offer their souls what they really need. We are the ones who can help both their bodies and their souls. And I wonder if it’s more likely that the ones who help with their spiritual needs are the ones to whom they will entrust their souls. Do we really want to leave that to any president?  

Let’s give thanks for a political situation that may force those who believe there is an eternity that matters to rise up and invest in serving others that makes them desire the kingdom of God. And pray that we all will seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit and step up to the plate. 

The world will know we are Christians by our love. 

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